Open house at AFRH belies recent controversy over mistreatment allegations

Open house at AFRH belies recent controversy over mistreatment allegations

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Friday's spring Open House at the Gulfport Armed Forces Retirement Home belied the recent scrutiny with allegations of substandard medical care and other basic needs issues by some residents.

The complaints, sent by email and social media earlier this month, got the attention of Rep. Steven Palazzo.

The Department of Defense has acknowledged issues with the center and says it is conducting an assessment of the operation. As part of the assessment, the DOD removed two top officials from their jobs: Director Chuck Dickerson and Chief of Healthcare Services Anne Knapp.

In the meantime, life continues, and many say it's pretty good. The open house was a chance to feature the good side of the 5-year-old building.

Army veteran Jim Ball has been a resident for more than four years.

"Some guys gripe," Ball said. "There's always gripers. The military is made up of people who gripe. There's always somebody who wants to yap a little, you know, listen to me. But, basically, you can't beat this place."

The open house included tours of the building and a chance to show off, and even sell, its passion for art and writing.

Author Steve Crews, an Air Force veteran, has lived at the home for more than a year. He's written three books, the last of which he wrote during his stay.

"I've looked around at different places where my parents and grandparents stayed, and this is much nicer," Crews said. "I couldn't ask for a better place to live."

He calls the complaints "rumors."

"It's almost like being in the military again," Crews said. "Because, there's rumors about this and rumors about that, and until I see something in black and white, I'm not going to put any particular faith in any rumor that I've heard."

Wolf Kiessling said he enjoys his time here, especially the workshop that allows him to practice his art. The complaints didn't surprise him.

"Out of any large group of people, you're going to get 10 percent of the people who are going to be dissatisfied, no matter what," said Kiessling.

Bill Williams was a resident a year before Katrina, and was the first resident back in the new home.

"It's fantastic," Williams said. "Everything in the world handed to us on a silver platter with the finest staff in the whole world."

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