This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21, with more information.
Vietnam War veteran James Goins was among more than a hundred people who celebrated Wednesday's groundbreaking of a $47 million state veterans home in Bradley County, Tennessee.
"This is a wonderful day," said Goins, a United States Air Force veteran, as he looked out over an open field on Westland Drive. "It's great for veterans in the area. You never know, I could be living here in the future."
Goins' son, Coby, is a pastor at Waterville Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. He said that it is incredibly important for the state of Tennessee and the country to take care of its veterans.
"We honor them when they serve, but we also need to honor and take care of them when they come back," Coby Goins said.
The new Tennessee State Veterans Home is 16 years in the making. In 2003, the Bradley County Commission and Cleveland City Council passed resolutions to support a nursing facility for veterans in need of long-term care.
There are an estimated 500,000 veterans in the state, and the home will serve the nearly 55,000 veterans in Bradley and six surrounding counties. The $47 million raised to build the facility came from several different agencies, departments, government entities and even a $3 million anonymous donation.
The state has put $10 million into the project, including $3 million in the 2019 budget approved by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2018. The city of Cleveland and Bradley County each donated a bit more than $2 million, and an anonymous donation of $3 million capped local fundraising by the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council.
In July, the Tennessee State Building Commission approved a $30.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the home, which will be built on 28.29 acres on Westland Drive in Cleveland donated by Robert Wright, Steve Williams, Thomas Williams and American Legion Post 81.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who spoke at Wednesday's ceremony, told the Times Free Press that the veterans home is an example of how government entities can work together with a common goal.
"It's a true partnership to serve those who have served us the most," Lee said. "One of the most important things for us to remember is that really, government is not the answer to the greatest challenges we have. It's when the people come together, then the challenges are met."
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann touted the importance of the local community supporting the project for years before the federal government finally came to the table.
Fleichmann, who is Tennessee's only member of the House Appropriations Committee, touted his contribution in making sure the $30 million federal grant came through even though "the deck was stacked against us."
"When [the 2018 House Appropriations Consolidated bill] passed on the House floor, we knew we were going to get our Bradley County nursing home funded. We never gave up, we fought the good fight," he said.
The home will provide resident-centered and individualized care for qualified veterans. It will be a single-story, 108-bed intermediate and skilled care nursing facility made up of six 18-bedroom residential houses connected by interior shared support spaces. Future residents will have access to a community center that contains therapeutic spaces, dining areas, activity rooms and resident support offices, officials said.
The facility should house anywhere from 175-200 employees, and salaries alone could bring a $6.5 million economic impact to the surrounding area, according to officials.
Coby Goins said after the ceremony that he prays he won't have to bring his father James to the nursing home facility but that he's glad something is being built in Bradley County that will ensure veterans are taken care of.
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476.