Former residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport gathered Monday morning to celebrate the ground breaking of a brand new facility on the beach front.
A reunion of friends preceded the formal ground breaking. Former residents exchanged smiles and stories. They're anxious to see the completion of the nearly 700,000 square foot modern retirement facility.
"This wonderful opportunity we have to bring our nation's heroes back to Gulfport," said Timothy Cox, the chief operating officer for the retirement home.
Many of the veterans were transferred to a retirement home in Washington D.C. post-Katrina. The start of construction gives them real hope of returning home.
"A state of the art facility that will be a credit to the service of the people who will reside there," said Senator Thad Cochran, who was among the government officials to participate in the ground breaking.
Former retirement home resident Dick Chitwood looks forward to the new home.
"I was here for the demolition and I can't wait to come back. I live over at the Seabee base in an RV park. And I'm ready to come back," he said.
Victor Hodge is also ready.
"Oh, it means the world. It's going to be my home the rest of my life. I think it's great. I think it's going to be very nice," said Hodge.
Senator Roger Wicker told the veterans they deserve the very best the country can offer in their retirement years.
"When you've served your tour and when you've done all that you promised to do for the government, the government is going to reward that with the very best care possible," he told the vets.
"Absolutely beautiful," said veteran Larry Westbrook as he looked at the building plans, "I've already got my room picked out."
As he watched the officials dig the ceremonial dirt, Westbrook envisioned happy days ahead. He and his fellow retirees can't wait for the doors to open on their new home.
"Was here for the demolition. I'm here for the ground breaking ceremony. And if God willing, I'm going to be here for the ribbon cutting ceremony," he said.
Yates Construction is building the $189,000,000 project. It's scheduled to be finished by July of 2010.