Retirement home veterans get a hero's welcome

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some 150 veterans are finally "back where they belong." Five years after Hurricane Katrina exiled them to Washington, DC, the vets enjoyed an emotional homecoming Monday as they moved into the brand new Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport.

The bus caravan arrived to a hero's welcome Monday morning.

"I'm back home again!" one veteran exclaimed.

Gulfport cheerleaders helped greet the guests of honor. Once inside, active duty military and other volunteers helped the returning residents get settled.

"Oh this is wonderful. I'm just overwhelmed," resident Eugene Spencer said.

The veterans couldn't be happier with their new high rise home and all the amenities.

"Oh, it's overwhelming," resident Dorothy Malone said. "It's better than the Beau Rivage."

"This is my brother, Gerald Campbell. He'll be 90 in January and he is so glad to be back home," Robert Campbell said.

Everyone we talked with was thrilled to be home again. Robert Royce called it one of the greatest days of his life.

"I can't get over all the love we received," Royce said. "All the children at the schools waving their hands at us, it's been too emotional for me.

Charles Robinson proudly showed us his new room.

"Happy. I'm extremely pleased. I'm great," Robinson said.

"Most of these high rises the civilians live in would cost you $2,000 a month for a room like this," resident James Burkett said.

"I think it's grand," resident Betty Lindstrom said. "It was nice in Washington and comfortable, but I like the climate of the South, and Southern hospitality."

That hospitality was evident on homecoming day, a day these residents have looked forward to for five years, and an occasion they will long remember.

"God bless us with this new home!"

The new residents said it will take a while to adjust to the spacious, new facility.

The rooms are more than four times larger than those in the old building and there are plenty of amenities, including a theater, library and bowling alley.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.