WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Well into their golden years, Ray Colvard and his wife Jo are living what they consider the "good life," having their needs met and doing it in style because they live in the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home (USSAH) in the nation's capital.
"This is not just a military community. It's a community of people who share common experiences," said Colvard, a retired Navy chief petty officer.
Colvard was promoted to chief in 1943, and his wife served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Because they are both veterans, they are able to live there.
The Colvards have lived at the home for the last eight years after moving from San Diego, Calif., where Ray taught history in Navy ships for the Program for Afloat College Education (PACE).
"We moved here for many reasons: good climate and amenities, the relatively low cost of living, and the freedom to come and go. The cost of living here is far less than that of a modest retirement home," Colvard added.
USSAH has been serving military personnel like the Colvards since 1851, when Congress approved a bill to establish the Soldiers' Home. Established as an "asylum for old and disabled veterans," and situated in the heart of our nation's capital, the 320-acre park-like setting is home to nearly 1,300 veterans. Approximately 8 percent of the residents are Navy and Marine Veterans.
The U.S. Naval Home (USNH) is the only other veterans' and retirees' home in the United States, and is located in Gulfport, Miss., where nearly half the population comes from the sea services.
Originally located in Philadelphia, the Naval Home was opened in 1834 as a naval command and is the oldest continuously operating retirement community in the United States. The Naval Home relocated to its present location in 1976. In 1991, the two homes were merged into an entirely new entity, the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH).
The homes are supported by a permanent trust fund established nearly 150 years ago and is fed by a 50-cent monthly payroll deduction from active-duty enlisted personnel, a monthly fee paid by residents of the home and interest on the trust fund.
"Everyone comes to the Soldiers' and Airmen's home for different reasons," Colvard said. "Living here is a wonderful opportunity and you get what you put into it."
The two homes continue the proud tradition of the Navy taking care of its own by offering excellent services and care to veterans like the Colvards and many others.
For more information on the USSAH and USNH, visit http://www.afrh.com and select "U.S. Naval Home."