‘This is their place’ — Veterans Resource Center takes steps to reach more area vets, young and old   | PostIndependent.com
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‘This is their place’ — Veterans Resource Center takes steps to reach more area vets, young and old  

Western Slope Veterans Coalition Co-founder John Pettit speaks with other area vets at the weekly coffee and donuts gathering at The Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

In the span of 15 months, two Roaring Fork Valley veterans succumbed to the mental and physical injuries sustained from fighting overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a boy, Jesse Beckius enjoyed catching frogs, riding tractors with his grandfather, and playing football with friends; he would later successfully earn the rank of an Eagle Scout. In 2005, after graduating from Glenwood Springs High School, he joined the United States Marine Corps before being deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2009 as a member of a scout sniper team and optics technician. He later spent more than a year as an electronic technician in Afghanistan.

Beckius lost his battle to PTSD on July 29, 2013.



Casey Owens felt compelled to serve his county after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He served two deployments in Iraq as a United States Marine Corps TOW gunner. He was injured on Sept. 20, 2004 after his convoy was ambushed, and a double-stacked IED threw him from the vehicle he was riding in. Owens sustained injuries that forced the amputation of both legs, sustained a traumatic brain injury, and was diagnosed with severe PTSD.

After medical retirement from the Marine Corps, he joined Challenge Aspen and the United States Paralympics Ski Team.



Owens lost his battle to PTSD in October 2014.

The Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center was dedicated to two area veterans who lost their battles to PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Today, the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwood Springs, which opened in 2017, is dedicated to serving veterans and their families in Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin counties, in memory of the two men who ultimately succumbed to the internal battles they continued to fight after war.

In 2015, co-founder of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition and Vietnam veteran, John Pettit, reached out to other valley veterans and told them something needed to be done after the suicides of Beckius and Owens in such quick succession.  

“You could just feel that something was just not right,” he said. “At the time, everybody was starting to come back from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Pettit went to the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners and asked for donations and was able to secure a small office space in downtown Glenwood.

“John asked me if I would be okay with having the center named after Jesse, and I was in tears,” Jesse Beckius’ father, John, said. “It was such an honor. Jesse had only been home from Afghanistan five weeks when he took his own life.”

John Beckius plays a round of pool with other vets at the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwod Springs during their weekly coffee and donuts. The resource center was named after his son Jesse Beckius who lost his battle to PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Two years later, County Commissioner John Martin asked if the resource center would like to expand and acquire the adjacent office space next door.

Pettit drew up ideas and concepts that he wanted to establish in the new space and, in early 2020, was given the OK from the county.

The grand re-opening took place in June of last year and now offers a computer room, exercise area, flight simulators, pool table, game room, and library.

The resource center is actively working towards appealing to and bringing in younger veterans by offering football viewing on Sundays, poker and game nights, and the use of a party gathering or meeting room.

New Castle resident and veteran Jason Marshall (right) plays a round of pool with other vets at the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwod Springs during their weekly coffee and donuts.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The next football Sunday gathering will take place on Nov. 20th beginning at noon. Veterans and their families are welcome to swing by for a round of pool, watch football or movies, listen to music, or just hang out for a few hours.

“They are not alone”

The resource center is hoping to not only offer a place for young veterans to hang out and unwind, but is also hoping to become a location where they can go to talk to someone who understands their experiences, if that’s what is needed.

Oftentimes, veterans returning home from war have the desire to move on with life, Beckius mentioned. Most veterans find it difficult to transition back into daily, civilian life and try to force any PTSD and trauma into the back of their mind.

“(Veterans) need to speak to other people that have similar experiences, so that they can realize they are not alone in this, and that there are other veterans going through the same things they are. Hopefully, talking to each other and working together they can pull each other out of that,” Beckius said. 

The resource center is also open to the families of veterans and acknowledges the struggles they face alongside their serviceman, whether they are living or have since passed.

“When the veteran is gone, his problems are gone, but the families are still left behind, and they are the ones trying to salvage their lives after something like this happens,” Beckius said. “We’ve been trying to figure out what we can do on the family side of it. This isn’t just for the veterans themselves; it’s for the family, too.”

Emergency funds

The resource center has an “emergency fund” with an annual budget of $40,000 to help veterans with whatever emergency or unexpected expense life might throw at them.

These funds can be used to temporarily house veterans, help with car repairs, moving, etc.

More info:

The Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center is located at 801 Colorado Avenue in Glenwood Springs.

Phone: 970-233-8735

Website: https://www.westernslopeveterans.org/ 

“Our latest expense helped a veteran in Aspen who hit something and tore up his car and did $6,000 worth in damage,” Pettit said.

Veterans in need of assistance must go into the center to fill out an application and show they have a Dd214, though they do not have to have an honorable discharge.  

The emergency fund committee will then review the application to approve or decline or look for any possible alternative methods.

“We try to give them a hand up, not a hand out,” Pettit said. “That’s kind of an old cliché, but it works. We really want to make sure that, if we help them, then we want to see them improve their lives.”

The resource center recently hired a community outreach coordinator who will be spearheading events and finding ways to reach more veterans in hopes of getting the center used at its full potential. The center is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but will work with veterans if they need or want to use it outside of that time.

“We are willing to change and do things differently,” Pettit said. “This is for veterans. This is their place.”

IF YOU GO:

Veterans Day assembly

Where: Glenwood Springs High School

When: Friday, Nov. 11 at 1:15 p.m.

Veterans Day celebration

Where: Grand Valley High School

When: Friday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m.

Glenwood Springs Elks Lodge Veterans Day Ceremony at 5:30 p.m.

Veterans Day specials

Glenwood Springs Community Center will offer free admission to any veteran on Veterans Day.

Bring valid ID

Breakfast for veterans at 19th Street Diner from 7 – 11 a.m. in Glenwood Springs, or WingNuts in Rifle from 8 –11 a.m.

Dedicated Menu at Glenwood Springs Chili’s from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Free haircuts for veterans at Great Clips from Nov. 11 to Dec. 9


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