Evacuated ASRH Retirees Welcome to Stay in Washington
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 15, 2005 The day after more than 330 Armed Services Retirement Home residents from Gulfport, Miss., were evacuated to the sister facility here after Hurricane Katrina, the ASRH deputy director looked ahead to brighter days for the elderly veterans.
Navy Cmdr. Timothy Burns, deputy director of the Armed Services Retirement Home, said residents who don't want to return to the Gulfport, Miss., home after it's repaired are welcome to stay at the campus in northwest Washington. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Yesterday was rough, today is a little better, and, hopefully, the next day is going to be better and will continue to be that way during their stay here," Navy Cmdr. Timothy Burns said.
That stay may be permanent for some. Burns said if any Gulfport residents don't want to return there because of what happened to them, they're welcome to stay at the Washington campus. "All they need to do is notify us of their intentions and we'll start the process of making them permanent residents at our Washington campus," he said.
Burns called the acceptance of the guests from Gulfport by residents on the Washington campus, "extremely positive."
"Our Washington residents have been very helpful and supportive throughout this relocation effort," the Navy commander said. "Many of the residents have volunteered hundreds of hours of their time accepting and distributing donated items, and acting as tour guides and welcoming parties."
And there's plenty for the retirees to see and do. "This is the greatest city in the world to visit," Burns noted. "And we have a very proactive recreational services and trip program, and they're entitled to sign up for any of those trips, just like the Washington residents. We wanted to welcome them because they're part of our family."
Officials advise Gulfport residents who left that area before Katrina struck not to return to the campus until further notice. Burns said if they need a place to stay, they should contact the Washington campus. The toll-free number is (800) 332-3527, and the e-mail address for the Washington home is AFRH-G.MSG-Board@afrh.gov.
Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulfport home, knocking out water and electricity, which made the home uninhabitable. The facility, formerly know as the Naval Home, suffered millions of dollars worth of hurricane damage and will take an unknown number of months and an unknown number of dollars to repair, officials said.
When the Gulfport guests, who are accustomed to living in an 11-story high-rise building, arrived at the Washington campus, they were stunned by the home's majestic views, rolling hills, tranquil takes and historic landmarks. Nestled on 276 acres in the heart of the nation's capital, it's just minutes from the White House, U.S. Capitol and other national landmarks. The home has housed four U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln.
Considered a city within a city, the campus features everything residents need for daily living: private rooms equipped for cable television and telephones, banks, chapels, convenience store, post office, laundry, barber shop and beauty salon, dining room, and 24-hour security and staff presence.
Beyond necessities, the home offers social, recreational and occupational activities for every interest, including a nine-hole golf course and driving range, walking trails, garden plots, two fishing ponds, a fitness center and physical fitness programs, a computer center and two print, audio and video libraries.
The Armed Forces Retirement Home was created in 1991 by incorporating the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in Washington and the U.S. Naval Home in Gulfport into an independent establishment in the executive branch of the federal government.
Congress established the Naval Home more than 160 years ago as a home for destitute naval officers, sailors and Marines. The home was officially opened in Philadelphia in 1834 and was relocated to Gulfport in 1976.
The Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in Washington was established by Congress in 1851 with money demanded as booty from the Mexican War as an asylum for "old and disabled soldiers."
Burns said when the retirees return to their home after it has been repaired months from now, he hopes "their memories are of the generous hospitality and a feeling of camaraderie with their fellow residents during their stay in Washington. We are truly one home."