SPARKS — Northern Nevada celebrated a crowning achievement Monday night with the ribbon cutting for a new $47 million state veterans home.
Located at 36 Battle Born Way in Sparks, the new 102,000 square foot, state-of-the art facility must receive state and federal credentials before it begins to accept residents in the spring when a grand-opening ceremony will occur. The state will own the home, but the Nevada Department of Veterans Services will oversee it with Avalon Health Care managing the facility. The home will serve veterans, their spouses and Gold Star families.
The 40th Infantry Division Band, Det. 1 from Sacramento, Calif., opened the ceremony by providing music, and the Scottish-American Military Society Post 1864 posted the colors followed by Shane Whitecloud, outreach specialist with the Veterans Resource Center of America, offering a stirring rendition of the national anthem.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who sought to make Nevada a top state for veterans and the military since he took office almost eight years ago, spoke to a standing-room audience of more than 500 servicemen and women, their family members, government officials and community leaders. A dream that began 20 years ago picked up momentum in 2013 when the Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Bill 505 to begin design planning and then, in 2015, the Legislature approved the governor’s budget to include required state matching funds of $14.1 million in the fiscal year 2016-17 budget.
Lawmakers advanced funding of the federal portion during the 2017 session, and the groundbreaking for the Northern Nevada State Veterans Home was held later that year on July 17. Sandoval thanked legislators several times for their support. Monday’s ceremony was marked with light-hearted comments and reflections on bringing a new veterans home to Northern Nevada, yet Sandoval was in awe of the near completion of the facility.
“I do have a speech, but I’m speechless,” he said.
Sandoval paused and then continued.
“This is the night we’ve been waiting for a very, very long time,” he said, adding he couldn’t think of a better way to finish the year.
Sandoval said the state had a strong need for a second veterans’ home in addition to the one in Boulder City. The governor, who leaves office in January after being termed out, said it took perseverance for the Nevada family to come together to make the facility a reality. The skilled nursing facility will provide around-the-clock care and 96 beds. The home includes private rooms with bath and showers, common living spaces and a town hall featuring a gym and therapy center, coffee bistro, sports bar, chapel, conservatory, commissary, meeting rooms and dining hall.
Sandoval praised NDVS director Kat Miller and her staff for their time, effort and passion. Miller said when Sandoval took office in 2011, he didn’t focus first on the economy or healthcare but, instead, discussed the need for inspirational leadership.
“I set a goal that Nevada would be the most military and veteran friendly state in the country because we are a stronger nation today because of the sacrifice of all men and women of our military,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval, a voracious reader of history, said the men and women who have served their country since the American Revolution revealed stories of their service. The governor envisions the same reflections on military service will occur with today’s veterans.
“This home will allow for those stories to be shared,” he added.
Sandoval also paraphrased Abraham Lincoln with a saying the governor has used on numerous occasions with military events: “Be proud of the place you live and live so that your place is proud of you.” He also emphasized the Department of Veterans Affairs motto of “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
Miller, who served as emcee, said the new state home for veterans is a building — a community in its truest sense — with its residents staff, volunteers and supporters. She thanked veterans old and young for their service.
“Every veteran here today regardless of when you served, where you served or what role you served, we owe each one of you our profound thanks,” she said.
Additionally, Miller said the project was a labor of love for her staff, but she personally recognized Wendy Simons and Connie Johnson for ensuring every detail for quality of life was considered.
“Wendy was the glue that held us together throughout this project,” she said.
Miller said Sandoval, though, was determined to have a state veterans home in Northern Nevada and wasn’t prepared to ask veterans and their families to wait any longer. Miller announced near the end of the ceremony the federal government has reimbursed Nevada with its share of $33.5 million.
“It was a tough fight,” she pointed out. “He worked across the aisle fighting for something important. Nevada is very lucky he chose to serve as our governor. He would’ve been an amazing soldier. That’s the highest praise I can give.”
Miller also mentioned the unveiling of a plaque and the dedication of the chapel, which was done in honor of Ron Sandoval, the governor’s father, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1956 to 1960 during the Cold War. The Cold War began after World War II and lasted for 46 years until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Tony Yarbrough, state senior vice commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, introduced Ron Sandoval and how he was an inspiration.
“For those that don’t know much about Ron let me say he’s among the quiet heroes who fought the silent evil of the Cold War era that tried to divert the world away from freedom,” Yarbrough said in his prepared remarks. “These heroes always say, ‘I’m no hero. I just did my job.’”
Yarbrough said Ron Sandoval served as an example for his children to show respect and honor veterans. He said Brian listened with great care, embraced his father’s teachings and set out to do more for the veteran community than any governor before him.
“When Gov. Brian Sandoval declared that Nevada would be the ‘Veteran friendliest state in the nation,’ he meant it, and he lives it to this very day,” Yarbrough said.
The longtime VFW member praised the governor for taking a great risk in committing state funding to complete the veterans home while waiting for federal funding to be approved.
“His vision has come true,” Yarbrough said. “We all celebrate a great accomplishment now and for many years to come.”