Officials gathered Friday in Butner to break ground on the Veterans Life Center (VLC), a new facility to help returning post-9/11 veterans re-integrate back into civilian life following their time in the military.
More than 100 people attended the ceremony, featuring U.S. Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) as well as other state and federal officials.
The facility, expected to open in early 2019, will serve returning homeless, troubled and at-risk veterans of the Global War on Terror.
At opening, that center will have about 100 beds with plans to expand to 150 beds, as well as a full kitchen and dining room, various activity rooms and offices for a staff of 30-40 employees including case managers, counselors, nurses and other professionals.
Male and female veterans will receive services on-site or in nearby hospitals, treatment centers and educational institutions tailored to the individual’s situation, a major selling point for the project.
Residents will help develop their own customized plans designed to return them to self-sufficiency in their communities.
The center will aid those experiencing post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, and traumatic brain injury, as well as counseling service for family reunification.
The facility will also include educational services training life skills, as well as vocational education.
Financing for the construction is provided by a $7.8 million Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant administered by the NC Department of Commerce, as authorized by the General Assembly.
The grant is the largest ever of its kind awarded in North Carolina.
Burr said that the project is a product of cooperation between the state, the federal government and the Veterans Administration (VA), and that though the organization, like the rest of Washington D.C., has been slow to change that the VA is adjusting to the needs of the nation’s newest veterans.
“I’ve done a lot of ground breakings in 23 years, usually when you get to these, especially when you cut the ribbon, you get a sense of finality, for those of you who know (VLC Executive Director) John (Turner) I don’t think I’ll ever get a sense of finality. It will be a groundbreaking, a ribbon cutting, and an ‘Oh by the way,’” Burr said. “In this particular case the Global War on Terror has created unique challenges for us, not just a generation that learned and was inspired to serve but who came home having seen the worst of humanity, but came home. We have an obligation for all of those service members to make sure that we deliver specific needs that they have. The Global War on Terror veterans have seen the worst of humanity, but the fact that we initiate initiatives like this provides a pathway and a glad path that provide a sense that they can reintegrate in a way that may not mirror the world they left from but can certainly create as many new opportunities for them as we could ever imagine.”
“The Veterans Life Center is going to be critical to some of those who have the visible and invisible wounds of war,” Tillis said. “If you know of any veteran or anybody who needs help please call our office. We have got staff that are solely focused on making sure that we get bureaucracy out of the way and that we continue to make installments on a debt that we will never repay.”
The event featured a shovel-turning ceremony in which Burr and Tillis were joined by Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs Brooks Tucker, former State Representative Marilyn Avila, Butner Mayor Pro Tem Christene Emory, VLC Chairman Don Comer and Executive Director John Turner wielding the ceremonial shovels.