20 years of caring for heroes | PostIndependent.com

20 years of caring for heroes

JOHN GARDNERGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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RIFLE – There’s a new polished-marble sign at the entrance to the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home.It reads, “Caring for the Nations Heroes” in bold, distinctive lettering.The sign says it all. One phrase encompassing what the facility is: A home for our veterans.The pristine-white block of rock was mined from the same seam, near the town of Marble, as the marble that was used in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and parts of the Lincoln Memorial.The facility celebrated its 20th anniversary on Friday with festivities spilling over into today.But Friday was spent celebrating the facility, it’s staff and the veterans who reside there.”It’s a privilege and an honor to be here and participate in the celebration,” said Colorado National Guard Adjutant General H. Michael Edwards. “What a privilege it is to spend the facility’s 20th anniversary with the veterans here in Rifle. This is a great opportunity to see what our state offers our veterans.”

Gen. Edwards accompanied Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter to the event. Ritter, whose late father was also a veteran of the armed forces and served during World War II in the Philippines, had a clear connection to the veterans in Rifle as he made his way from hand to hand, shaking each one intently and speaking with all of the veterans who attended the outside ceremony.”This is important just because it’s the 20th anniversary,” Ritter said. “It’s also of sustainable importance because these facilities are not just about past wars, but it’s also about the veterans in service today and about future veterans and how we take care of them.”Ritter has also done more than shake the hands of veterans. He’s aided in passing Colorado House Bills 1211 and 1212, which increase the oversight of nursing homes under the purview of the board of commissioners of state and veterans nursing homes and created a local advisory board for each of the homes statewide. He also helped pass House Bill 1251, which provides property tax exemptions to veterans. It is expected to benefit between 2,000 and 2,500 veterans statewide.Heroes: see page A5″We’ve done all we can to provide the best services to the veterans of this state,” Ritter said in his speech to the attendees.The Veterans Home in Rifle is one of five in the state that were established in 1987 as part of the nationwide State Veterans Home Program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s now overseen by the Department of Human Services and the facility has a 100-bed capacity, 84 of which are general nursing beds, leaving 16 designated for the secured special care neighborhood for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients.

Executive director for the Colorado Department of Human Services Karen Beye, who attended Friday’s festivities, was also there in 1987 and headed the planning and design aspects of the facility.”Honoring veterans is an important part of my life,” Beye said. “There is a lot of love from the staff to the vets here, it’s great to see and be a part of.”Being a part of the celebration was special for her on many levels.”It’s not as much thinking about the past, but it’s looking to the future as a place for veterans. People everywhere agree, if they support the war or not, that we need to support the vets.”A smile presents itself as she looks to the building.”This is a place that I’m proud of,” she said.The chunk of marble represents these veterans well.

Memorials around the country all came from the same seam of marble in the Rocky Mountains. Just as these veterans, men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, are all of the same “seam” of people – courageous and noble.The sign says it all.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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