USA — New Military Retirement Home Debuts in Gulfport

WASHINGTON — 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.

Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Miss.
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
Click to enlarge

Emo­tions are run­ning high as the 135 res­i­dents pre­pare to leave AFRH-Wash­ing­ton Oct. 4, 2010, 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 ser­vice­mem­ber helps sup­port both facil­i­ties through 50-cent-a-month pay­roll deduc­tion.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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