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Airmen Spruce Up Living Space for Retirees Displaced by Katrina

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2005 – Fifty servicemembers applied several hours’ worth of old-fashioned elbow grease Aug. 31 to make a building undergoing renovations suitable for nearly 400 military retirees displaced from Gulfport, Miss., by Hurricane Katrina.

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Air Force Master Sgt. Terry Rawlins, left, first sergeant of the 11th Communications Squadron, chats with Staff Sgt. Denae Greenly, 26, of the 11th Mission Support Group at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. Rawlins was in charge of a 50-member detail from Bolling that cleaned up a building at the Armed Forces Retirement Home for incoming residents who were forced out of their home in Gulfport, Miss., by Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Rudi Williams
  

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Looking around at a bunch of chairs, tables, magazine racks, mops, mop buckets, brooms and trash in the large hallway in the Pipes Building at the Armed Forces Retirement Home here, a frustrated Air Force sergeant bellowed out, “What do you want us to do with all this stuff?” to Air Force Master Sgt. Terry Rawlins.

“Just make it look nice and clean, so when the folks from Gulfport arrive … they can say, ‘Hey, somebody here really cared,’” said Rawlins, first sergeant of the 11th Communications Squadron at Bolling Air Force Base in the District of Columbia. “I want it to look like they never left home.”

Rawlins was in charge of a 50-member detail from Bolling that volunteered to spruce up the building for the arrival of nearly 400 retirees from the facility’s sister home in Gulfport, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The Gulfport residents were to arrive here by bus today.

The Pipes Building was closed in June for renovation. Assisted-living residents will live in the home’s Scott assisted-living facility and King Health Center.

“As military folks, we go everywhere else to take care of people, and this was our opportunity to take care of our own,’” Rawlins said. “I heard some of these folks coming in can’t walk. They lost their home, and it’s not like they can go back to anything, so we’ve got to prepare this place to look and feel like home for them.

“When I look at what’s going on on television and I see folks there who are struggling, I can imagine what happened to the folks we’re helping out,” Rawlins said. “The retired military, … the folks that went before me and paved the way, … one day I might be in this type of situation and I would like the young airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who follow me to be able to do the same thing for me.

“So it was an easy choice for me to come out here and head this thing up and make sure that we did a job to the point where we can be proud and the guys that come in behind us can say, ‘Somebody really cared!’” he said.

“The military does take care of its own,” Rawlins added.

More than 400 of the 600 residents rode out the hurricane in Gulfport’s 11-story high-rise beachfront facility, but Katrina’s devastating winds knocked out running water, power, telephone service and everything that made the building livable for the residents, whose average age is 77.

Ten feet of water reportedly surged into the ground floor of the Gulfport home, ruining the kitchen, dining room, bowling alley and long-term-care facility, and submerging the emergency generator. Katrina also blew down the home’s water tower.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Denae Greenly, 26, of the 11th Mission Support Group at Bolling said it makes her proud to be able to help the now-homeless retirees.

“My grandfather is a retired veteran, and if he were in the same position I would want anybody to do the same,” Greenly said. She said what happened to the retirees in Gulfport touched her heart so much “because they’re just human beings who lost their homes.”

“If I lost my home, I’d want someone to come and help me,” she said.

“After seeing all the devastation on TV news, I felt the need to help,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kernovia Roberts, 36, of Air Force Legal Services at Bolling. “This is a good way to give my portion. It feels great to be able to do this.”

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Related Sites:
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Bolling Air Force Base, D.C.

Related Articles:
Gulfport Armed Forces Retirement Home Residents Evacuate


Click photo for screen-resolution imageAirmen from Bolling Air Force Base pack an elevator with cleaning materials to be taken to another floor at the Pipes Building at Washingtons Armed Forces Retirement Home. Fifty airmen volunteered to spruce up the building for residents evacuated from the home in Gulfport. Miss., that was destroyed by hurricane winds and waves. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Tech. Sgt. Kernovia Roberts of Air Force Legal Services at Washingtons Bolling Air Force Base pushes a mop bucket down the hallways after scrubbing an area in the Pipes Building at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in northwest Washington. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Airmen Basic Mark Nieland and Jeremy Rooker of the Air Force Honor Guard at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., wait for the elevator to take out trash and mopping and cleaning agents at the Pipes building at Washingtons Armed Forces Retirement Home. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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