Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport

AFRH3The Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport is one of only two facilities of it’s kind in the nation. The other facility is nestled in a beautiful part of Washington, DC and is home to some of the bravest men and women in America.
Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we found the residents and staff of the Gulfport AFRH to be quite charming and they have lived fascinating lives. The AFRH Admissions Officer, Christopher Alexander, allowed us to spend the day and enjoy the company of some of the residents.
Mr. Alexander kindly provided a grand tour of the AFRH. Strolling through the immaculate and beautiful halls provide guests with a remarkable American history lesson. Every wall is adorned with artifacts from our nation’s past. Old, well worn, uniforms are proudly displayed along with photos, combat arms and various kinds of war time memorabilia.
The four towers of the facility house residents who are in varying stages of their lives. The independent living section at the AFRH was specially created for retired enlisted and Warrant Officers, the service connected disabled who are incapable of earning a livelihood, war theater service personnel who are incapable of earning a livelihood, and females who served in the women’s component before June 12, 1948.
The two AFRH’s are funded through several sources of revenue for the AFRH Trust Fund. The main revenue source comes from fines and forfeitures from active duty members in all branches of the service.
The fee to reside at the Armed Forces Retirement Home is based on a sliding scale that is calculated by the individual’s income. The maximum figure is estimated by Congress and is currently $1,305 per month. Most residents do not pay that much but no one ever pays higher than the maximum set by law. The fee entitles the resident to a very nice, spacious and comfortable living area. Utilities are included as are all meals and activities. The dining hall is quite large and expertly manned. If a resident would like to eat between the scheduled meal times, they are welcome to go to the grill inside the dining hall and get a snack or freshly prepared meal. The kitchen is always well stocked with ready to eat foods such as yogurt, pastries, crackers, fruit and much more. A beverage station offers fresh coffee and other drinks throughout the day for all residents as well.
A short walk from the dining area are two well appointed exercise rooms. All the equipment is available for use each day to help keep residents fit and trim. A trainer is on the property for expert assistance and advice as well but most people prefer to simply use the treadmills at a gentle stride. The exercise center is also a favorite spot to meet fellow residents and have some fun.
Built in 2010, the AFRH is located on 47 sprawling acres overlooking the Mississippi Sound. The property includes the last remaining elevated cross over walkway to the beach along Hwy 90. Similar walkways, like the one that once graced the old Buena Vista Hotel, have all been destroyed by hurricanes or years of neglect.
A wonderful arts and crafts center is available for anyone wishing to start a new hobby or to sharpen their skills on a beloved craft. Many residents have found new vigor in painting, woodworking, pottery and sewing. Classes are offered from time to time and instructors are happy to assist as needed.
We met a fascinating character during our visit, Mr. Rupert Maxwell. He is a decorated war veteran and was also a POW during WWll. He is 92 years old. Rupert just published his very first book with the tongue-in-cheek title, “HEY! I’m Not Dead Yet!” He recently discovered that he loves making pottery. He took us to see his many works in progress in the kiln room. There were rows of coffee mugs, odd vases and bowls. He explained that he was working diligently to perfect his firing and glazing techniques. It was such a pleasure to make his acquaintance.
The oldest female resident at the AFRH is Ms. Marion Ritchie. Ms. Ritchie served our country honorably and is now 96 years young. She has a very special love for hand quilting. Marion graciously offered to show us the many quilts she had made over the years. Each one of her treasured fabric masterpieces had it’s own personality through vibrant color schemes and interesting patterns. Ms. Ritchie said that she often looked at quilts in magazines and then created her own version. She is an adorable little lady who enjoys each and every day.
The residents of the AFRH have lived very rich lives and continue to do so. They are still pushing themselves to learn more, do more, and go a little further. They have honorably served their country and protected all that we hold dear. Isn’t it wonderful that they are safe and comfortable during their senior years, happily living on the beautiful Gulf Coast at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

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