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Vice Chairman Checks How Military 'Takes Care of Its Own'

By Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 1998 – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Retirement Home here Feb. 27 to assess how well the military "takes care of its own."

"I'm impressed," Gen. Joseph W. Ralston reported following the visit. "The facilities are extraordinary -- a place our distinguished veterans can proudly call home. I want every resident to know the military hasn't forgotten or stopped caring about them."

Ralston donated 135 sweaters for the residents on behalf of the Joint Staff, and toured the 325-acre, park-like grounds and facilities. He also talked with a number of the home's 1,400 residents and staff members, and visited the facility's two hotel-sized dormitories, a skilled-care facility, the craft shop, wood shop, fitness center, and dining room.

Every enlisted person and warrant officer invests 50 cents every month to support the retirement home in Washington and the Naval Home in Gulfport, Miss., -- together called the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

"But," Ralston said, "it's a small investment with enormous returns. These veterans depend on these facilities and deserve only the best-quality care. I believe that's exactly what they are getting and it's something that gives me a good feeling."

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Donald C. Hilbert, director of the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home, said it was important for the vice chairman "to see how the facility is taking care of our retired veterans. General Ralston seemed to enjoy meeting and talking with the residents, and they were thrilled with his visit."

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Martha J. Williams, chair of the Resident Advisory Committee, said the residents appreciate the sweaters Ralston donated to them and they plan to issue them out at their weekly bingo games.

Williams said she was particularly impressed with the general. "We feel we haven't been forgotten when people come see us and talk to us. Sometimes we feel like we are off in the boonies and nobody realizes that we are here.

"It makes such a difference -- and everyone perked up when the general stopped by," she said. "I wanted him to see the facility, why we want to keep it and hopefully improve it. He appeared interested and seemed to enjoy talking with us, and the residents loved him."

(Roberts is editor of J-Scope, an electronic newspaper serving the Joint Staff.)

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