Kearney breaks ground for new Central Nebraska Veterans' Home

Published: Mar. 31, 2016 at 11:13 AM CDT
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Wednesday morning, several guests gathered at the new site with dignitaries across the state to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home.

The one-hour ceremony featured speeches rom Governor Pete Ricketts, Director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs Jim Cada and a few more.

Wednesday’s ceremony marked the first step towards building the new multi-million dollar facility.

"It's going to be a neat thing for our members. We have the model room. 235 square feet, 80 square feet for the bathroom. I had members that came down and looked at the model room, and they go, 'Wow. This is bigger than our room upstairs.' They're very excited,” Grand Island Veterans’ Home administrator Alex Willford said.

Back in 2013, former Governer Dave Heineman decided to move the veterans home from its current location in Grand Island to Kearney, creating a bit of controversy among community members.

"Senator Fischer would like to point out that when push comes to shove and we get down near the goal line, all Nebraskans always come together to get the right thing and get it done now,” Major General Roger Lemke representing Sen. Deb Fischer said.

However, despite the tension created around the moving of the vets home, the new facility is a venture many in the Kearney community are excited for.

"They're our veterans. They cared for us. They cared for our freedom. They cared for our nation. They cared for our security, and all together, let's continue to care for them,” Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs director John Hilgert said.

The project will cost approximately $101,000,000 and is funded through the state, grants and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new location is at the intersection of 56th Street and Cherry Avenue, the site of an old army air base, considering it sacred ground for those who served in the military.

"It was being used to defend our country during World War II, and it's going to be a great resting area and a great living area for our members that come here to the Kearney facility. I think that's going to be a great tribute to them,” Willford said.

The sentiment of many in attendance of the ceremony agree the new vets home is the least Nebraska can do to pay back the debt they owe to their veterans.

"We're all very patriotic here and know that we want to take care of our veterans, the people who sacrificed for us to give us this great country. This is going to be a great way to say, 'Thank you' to those veterans by having this wonderful facility to be able to take care of them,” Governor Pete Ricketts said.

The ceremony ended with 19 shovels digging up the grounds where the new veterans home will sit.

Project officials expect the new home to be completed in 2018, but that date could be changed.