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Veterans retirement home to close in Gulfport

Eighteen employees at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport will be out of jobs on Nov. 3.

Robert Locke, acting director of the AFRH, said he has three boxes next to his desk with the “reduction in force” notices for all employees.

Shortly after the closing, Locke and AFRH Gulfport spokeswoman Mary Kay Gominger said, the tower probably will be destroyed and the grounds prepared for a new version of the place hundreds of veterans had called home for nearly 40 years.

The reconstruction of the home has been turned over to the General Services Administration, the real estate management arm of the federal government.

A total of $221 million has been provided since Hurricane Katrina through appropriations by the federal government for the complete reconstruction of the facility.

Gominger said the language of the appropriations package includes money to destroy the coast landmark.

“It says ‘to replace existing facilities,’” Gominger said.

Locke said the remaining crew have long since been preparing for that, with the help of the Seabees.

“Every indication is that it will come down,” Locke said. “It’s about 95 percent cleared out. Most of the residents’ rooms still have old, outdated furniture.”

Locke said the remaining employees are sad to say goodbye to the place.

“You could not have found a better population to work with,” Locke said. “They have written and participated in a majority of their history in the last 60 to 65 years.”

The retirees at the home were evacuated before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005. They were moved to facilities in other states and Washington, D.C.