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Doan Salutes Vets; Pledges First-Class Facility in Gulfport

Remarks by
Lurita Alexis Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Groundbreaking Ceremony
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Gulfport, MS.
March 3, 2008


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s my great pleasure and privilege to be here this morning with:

Senators Cochran and Wicker;

Congressman Taylor, Under-Secretary Arsht, Mayor Warr;

GSA’s brand new Regional Administrator, Craig Dawson, as well as all of you as we break ground for the new Armed Forces Retirement Home.

This project is special to me, both as Administrator of GSA, and on a personal level as well.

Wherever GSA interacts with veterans, whether in the federal contracting arena or the construction of new facilities, we are committed to fully – and expeditiously -- helping the brave men and women who put their personal aspirations and safety second to our nation’s security and ideals.

I’m extremely proud, for instance, of a government-wide acquisition contract we launched last year that gives special preference to I-T companies owned by service-disabled veterans. In fact: I’m very proud to announce another new GSA  initiative today called:

The 21-Gun Salute!

The 21-Gun Salute supports President Bush’s Executive Order directing that at least 3 percent of all federal agencies’ contracting dollars go to businesses owned by service-disabled vets. We’re going to help our sister agencies meet that goal.

No matter where we turn in this region of our country, we remain confronted by the legacy of Katrina. The storm that devastated my hometown of New Orleans and destroyed my childhood home was also responsible for ruining the Armed Forces Home in Gulfport. In the end, we will rebuild this facility. We will rebuild the Gulf Coast. And we will apply the lessons of Katrina and do better in future disasters.

I truly believe that one of the best ways that we can ensure the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is to encourage the small business community.  This retirement home will be built by a local business, Yates Construction.  In fact, we just had a partnering small business conference in the Hancock Community Center that had a stupendous attendance. Yates was there in force to meet the local small business owners who might be able to qualify as subcontractors on this wonderful project.

Third, and on a more personal level, I am, in addition to being the Administrator of GSA, the wife of a retired Army officer, the daughter of a World War II and Korean War veteran, the sister of an Army officer, and the granddaughter of a Buffalo Soldier.

My grandfather fought in France as a first lieutenant in the 92nd Infantry Division under General John Pershing. He was the victim of a mustard gas attack during the Meuse-Argonne offensive and suffered injuries that lasted the rest of his life.  So believe me, I understand first-hand how important it is that we provide state of the art facilities to those brave men and women who were willing to risks their lives to preserve our freedom.  That’s a debt we can’t truly ever repay, but first class facilities in this splendid setting, with each room having a balcony that looks out at the Gulf, is a very good start.

Our veterans who sacrificed so much deserve superior care their entire lives. They deserve consideration when federal contracts are awarded. And they deserve state-of-the art retirement facilities that honor their spirit and service.

This project will hit that target. It will provide independent living, assisted living, or long-term care for 584 residents.  I will thank in advance GSA ARA Ron Hertwig, GSA Project Manager Steven Smith and Contracting Officer Lawrence Hales. They are our point people here in Gulfport, and I know they will make sure things get done right.
Right, GSA?

While parades and speeches are important, honoring those who served is more about deeds than words. That’s why we were proud to accept this job, and that is why you have my pledge that GSA will deliver precisely as we have promised, on time and within budget.

Thank you very much.