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Gulfport Armed Forces Retirement Home Residents Evacuate

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2005 – Officials at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Miss., announced plans today to evacuate 416 now-homeless veterans from the hurricane-decimated home and move them to its sister facility here.

Most of the veterans were preparing to leave Gulfport this afternoon by charter bus for the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, which is preparing to house them in dormitory areas, according Sheila Abarr, director of public affairs and marketing for both homes. The veterans are expected to arrive here Sept. 1.

Plans are being considered to airlift assisted-living and long-term-care residents to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for movement to the Washington facility, Abarr said.

More than 400 of the home's 600 residents rode out the hurricane at the facility, but they cannot remain there without running water or electricity, Abarr said. Some have chosen to move in with family members, but an estimated 300 to 400 will arrive in Washington, where they will stay indefinitely, she said.

The Gulfport facility has suffered $1 million in hurricane damage over the past three years, and additional damage caused by Hurricane Katrina will cost millions of dollars and take months to repair, according to the home's Web site.

Some buildings on the campus were knocked to the ground by Katrina's devastating winds, and the steel-and-concrete perimeter around the facility was destroyed, the Web site reported.

Congress established a home for destitute Navy officers, sailors and Marines in Philadelphia during the War of 1812. The U.S. Naval Home eventually moved to Gulfport.

In the mid-1800s, Congress established an asylum for old and disabled soldiers in Washington, D.C., which later became the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home.

Although the facilities operated separately for many years, Congress passed a law in the early 1990s combining the two facilities into the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

Now an independent federal agency funded by a permanent trust fund that's made in part from 50-cent-a-month payroll deductions from active-duty troops, the home is self-sustaining and provides affordable, comfortable home with medical care and other amenities.

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