AFRH residents now officially home - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

AFRH residents now officially home

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday was a spectacular day in South Mississippi, and the weather was appropriate for a special event called "Glory on the Gulf." It was the official grand opening of the Armed Forces Retirement Home on Highway 90 in Gulfport.

Although residents moved in a few weeks ago, the event was to honor the veterans and welcome them home.

When you look at the new facility, you can't help but reflect on how much has changed in the five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the old retirement home. Martha Johnson called it, "A terrific moment." Johnson was in South Mississippi as President Obama's representative. She's the administrator for the General Services Administration.

"GSA did participate in the design, construction and the re-imagining of this kind of place and it really is a pleasure to come and see it opening," Johnson said.

Besides the head of GSA, other federal government officials, including a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, also toured the home.

It would be accurate to say the new home, which is actually three buildings, is superior in every way to what was there before Katrina.

"The old building was a very dated product," Armed Forces Retirement Home Director Richard Heath said. "The rooms were very small. These rooms are not small, and everything is first class."

It's not just the rooms that are better. Everything is impressive from the reception area, to the hallways, to the recreation room and bowling alley.

Heath said the residents still can't believe they are living in such a beautiful place.

There are 374 veterans in the home right now. Ronald Thompson was here before Katrina hit South Mississippi five years ago.

"I think it is great," Thompson said from his room overlooking the Mississippi Sound. "Everybody treats you like you are the king."

Robert was more than happy to give anyone who was interested a tour of his new home. Suffice to say, it is much larger than what he lived in here before. The head of GSA, even commented on the gorgeous view.

It took five years, but now we can say that our beloved veterans are back home. At least some of those veterans are expected to be at the Veteran's Day Parade, set to roll Saturday in downtown Biloxi.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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