Residents line up outside the new Armed Forces Retirement Home

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Meggan Gray – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Veterans eager to return to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, waited anxiously outside the entrance of the new Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport. In front, an RV, and a man who wanted to make sure he was first in line.

"I got here about 6:30 or 7 o'clock last night, and I had the advantage of being able to sleep in my RV," said Bill Williams. "So, I just spent the night here."

Williams is one of the 40 residents who decided to drive down from Washington, D.C. Knowing he was just minutes away from driving through the gate, made it difficult to express his emotion.

"This is something we've looked forward to for so long. It's not just me, it's the whole crew that's looked forward to this day."

Andrew Chapura was another resident in line who was eager to return home.

"Right now I'm excited," said Chapura.  "But after I get moved into a room and have time to realize where I am, I'll probably have tears."

The moment they'd all been waiting for had finally arrived.  The gate opened slowly, and after five years of waiting, they were finally home.

Before going to their rooms, residents gathered outside for a special ceremony.  A navy color guard raised the same flag that was flying the day Katrina hit south Mississippi. There was also a moment of silence to remember those who have passed on.

Once inside, residents were greeted with binders and welcome bags.  Airmen then showed them to their new rooms.

Williams was shocked by the size of his room.

"Whoa . . . This is quite a difference from the old home. The rooms in the old home were half this size."

Henry Pike walked in his room and said, "This is homey. This is like a home you would build, instead of a home you would build for old folks, this is like Pike's Home."

A new home, a new beginning for dozens of retired veterans who say they are so happy to be back on the coast.

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