Wednesday, the public had a rare chance to explore the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The open house is a way for locals to see what retired army veterans are up to after hanging up their blues. From the outside, the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport may not look like much, but to the veterans who live there, it's a much-needed retreat. PJ Johnson, a resident of the home, says, “It’s paradise, paradise! What else can you ask for?”
Johnson has lived at the home for 12 years now. Wednesday, he and other residents got to welcome the public to the special place they now call home. Laura Slack, an employee of the home, says, “I think the community feels that we are a mystery. We are the best kept secret on the Gulf Coast. Two times a year, we open our doors so people from the community can come.” There is a lot of talent at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. From gardening to painting, the residents really know how to shine. The retirement home has everything from a two acre rooftop garden to a woodshop, which Johnson latched onto when he first arrived. He has since discovered a talent for woodcarving, creating trains, houses, clocks, and more.
Johnson says, "I decided I better have something to do besides watch TV and gamble at the casinos." Johnson is just one of many retired army veterans who have transitioned from a life of hard work serving our country and are now retired. The activities at the Armed Forces Retirement Home provide a creative outlet to keep these brave men and women mentally stimulated. Slack also says, “We are like a cruise ship. That is what a lot of people were saying today, feels like a cruise ship, and the residents have the best life. They have a condo on the beach and you can see how much they participate when people come in from the outside.”
Marines and Seabees were also on hand Wednesday, giving tours and spending time with veterans, a new generation giving back to the retired veterans who served before them.