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New Military Retirement Home Debuts in Gulfport

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2010 – More than 100 residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home here are packing up to move back into a brand-new complex in Gulfport, Miss., that replaces the facility that was destroyed five years ago by Hurricane Katrina.

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The state-of-the-art Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Miss., awaits 135 residents soon to return after being displaced five years ago by Hurricane Katrina. The east stairs lead to an outdoor dining area and the main lobby. Courtesy photo
  

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Emotions are running high as the 135 residents prepare to leave AFRH-Washington Oct. 4, and along with it, the deep friendships they’ve forged during the past five years, spokeswoman Sheila Abarr told American Forces Press Service.

About 40 residents that are driving rather than flying to their new home already are en route, planning to be among the first to check into the new building, she said.

The Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport evacuated 416 of its residents Aug. 30, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina decimated the complex. Some buildings were knocked to the ground and the steel-and-concrete perimeter around the facility was destroyed.

Many of the residents rode out Katrina at the facility before moving in with family members in the area or taking up residence at the Washington home within 72 hours of the hurricane.

Henry Pike, who was among those residents who experienced Katrina’s wrath firsthand, said he’s looking forward to finally returning home. “All along, I’ve posted construction photos and updates on the new home and the residents have literally been counting down the days,” he said.

The residents will move into a modern four-tower complex, located on 47 acres of prime waterfront. The new facility features dining, social, recreational and therapeutic activities, including a swimming pool, hobby shops, a wellness center with basic dental and eye care, a bank, a barber and beauty shop, a bowling center, as well as a movie theater, computer room, library and a pedestrian bridge to the beach.

Residents’ personal rooms include a full bathroom, kitchenette and balcony, Abarr said.

The incoming residents have selected their rooms, based on seniority at the facility. Louis Nemec got the honors of being the first to choose.

“The new Gulfport home is an incredible advance in how AFRH provides senior housing for our nation’s heroes,” said Tim Cox, chief operating officer for AFRH. “In addition to providing state-of-the-art facilities, we have also partnered with the local community to provide additional services for our residents.”

A day-long “Glory on the Gulf” celebration on Nov. 9, 2010, will mark the official opening of the new facility.

While sad to see their Gulfport neighbors leave, residents at AFRH-Washington are looking forward to a new common-area building to be built next year, Abarr said. The facility will provide dining facilities, arts and crafts and other activities under one roof, making them more convenient and accessible for residents, she said.

Both AFRH facilities are operated exclusively for war veterans and retired service members from all branches of the U.S. military. Residents must be at least 60 years old, but the average age is 81, Abarr said.

Congress established a home for destitute Navy officers, sailors and Marines in Philadelphia during the War of 1812, and the facility 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.

Both communities can house more than 1,300 residents in five levels of care, from independent living to long-term care. Each facility offers a nine-hole golf course, fitness center, walking trails, hobby shops, entertainment, and bus trips.

Every active-duty enlisted servicemember helps support both facilities through 50-cent-a-month payroll deduction.

 

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Armed Forces Retirement Home

Click photo for screen-resolution imageReturning residents will find spacious rooms and state-of-the-art amenities when they return to the new Armed Forces Retirement Home facility in Gulfport, Miss., that replaces the one destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTim Cox, chief operating officer for the Armed Forces Retirement Home here, accepts a plaque from the home’s Gulfport, Miss., residents to the Washington, D.C., residents to thank them for providing them refuge after Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageIrene Smith, left, and Mary Allen, right, both headed to the new Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Miss., celebrate with Steve McManus, deputy chief operating officer and chief financial officer, during a farewell picnic at the Washington, D.C., facility Sept. 24, 2010. Courtesy photo  
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Comments

Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

10/22/2010 7:24:25 AM
In the article it mentioned that services ranged from independent living to long-term care. I read with concern that a number of individuals who lived at the GAFRH prior to and Including the day Katrina hit will not be allowed to return. I feel this is unjustifible especially for the ones that decided to stay and not go to Washington due to maybe family being nearby but mostly based on being told that they would be able to move in. I dont have the facts but certainly a policy that allows this type of discrimination needs to be addressed and someone from Congress or DOD needs to look at this immediately. I grew up and lived in Gulfport for 22 years prior to entering the Air Force and retiring after twenty years of service. Again all the residents who lived their prior to Katrina or during should have priority with the execption if they passed away or declined the choice.
- Stewart Trautman, Florida

9/29/2010 11:11:33 PM
PART 2: The DC facility wasn't prepared to take on the care for so many add'l residents. Therefore, much of their care was substandard. Some decided NOT to stay in Washington, & made other arrangements while they waited for Gulfport to reopen. They were assured at the time that although the residents who stayed would be given the most priority, they would still be given the opportunity to return to Gulfport. Now these same individuals are being turned away. They certainly didn't leave AFRH Gulfport by choice. It is unthinkable that they'd be treated this way. Someone needs to look into the re-admission criteria being applied to former residents. There should never be a policy that prevents you from doing the right thing. And if anyone is making these decisions with ulterior motives, that should be addressed & resolved immediately. Let ALL the victims of Katrina go home & celebrate the reopening of the AFRH with their friends & "family" in Gulfport.
- Brenda Conner, Florida

9/28/2010 6:58:40 PM
Part 1: This is certainly an occasion to be celebrated for those former residents who are going home to AFRH Gulfport. However, there are some who are not so fortunate. Their applications for re-admission to the place that was their home have been denied because they need to be housed in assisted living. The injustice of these denials is that these former residents were already in assisted living or longterm care when they were displaced by Katrina. They were there when the water broke through the front doors that day. They had to be carried up the stairs by the Seabees when the storm surge rushed through the lobby. They watched as furniture & debri savagely beat the walls of their safe haven. They sat for days in the same clothes & ate bologna sandwiches until they could all be safely evacuated to Washington DC. (continued)
- Brenda Conner, Florida

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