Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12. George Washington’s birthday is Feb. 22. For decades, many states commemorated these dates with two separate holidays. In 1968, the 90th Congress decided to combine the observances and create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. Since 1971, the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln have been celebrated as Presidents Day on the third Monday in February.
Presidents Day also has a dual purpose of paying tribute to every person who has served in the office as president of the United States, whose accomplishments, lives and deaths stand out in history.
It is also fitting that the U.S. Congress set aside a national Veterans Day to honor those who take their orders from the commander in chief, our military veterans.
At last count there were more than 8,000 veterans living in Bradley County and 45,861 vets within a 50-mile radius. That number is expected to increase by almost 10 percent in five years. This means there is an immediate need for a veterans home in Bradley County to attend to the longterm medical needs of these patriots.
I am happy to report that my office has just received the Veterans Administration construction grant list for fiscal year 2013. The list offers a ray of hope that the construction phase of the proposed VA home in Bradley County could possibly begin in about two years. The project is ranked No. 71 on VA Priority List Group 1. The majority of the projects on the list are renovations. However, there are nine new construction projects listed and the proposed Bradley County VA home is ranked at No. 6.
Construction of the home is estimated to cost about $30 million. The federal government will fund 65 percent, with local and state contributions equaling 35 percent. The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the construction site on 27 acres of land which was donated for this purpose, and a $3 million local pledge has been made from an anonymous donor.
While there is no guarantee a longterm care facility for veterans will be built here, we are making excellent progress with site testing already complete. A draft environmental assessment review and public hearing are scheduled for Feb. 28. An architectural firm has been selected and drawings are expected by December. The facility will be designed to offer intermediate and skilled levels of nursing care to provide a home for Tennessee veterans who have honorably served our country and are in need of longterm care.
We hope to have the site ready to turn over to the state in 2013. However, state VA officials say the construction of the new veterans home in Montgomery County must be complete before construction can begin in Bradley County.
The director of the Bradley County Veterans Service Office, Larry McDaris, continues to work hard on this project. He feels, as I do, that the American soldier is responsible for the liberties we enjoy. The price of our freedom was paid in blood and sacrifice. To provide a veterans longterm care facility in our community would be an honor.
All donations are tax deductible and naming opportunities are available. I urge you to honor the veteran in your family with a generous donation.
For more information about the proposed veterans home in Bradley County, contact Larry McDaris at the Bradley County Veterans Service Office in the Courthouse. He can be reached at 423-728-7149. You can also visit www.bradleyco.net and click on the “Veterans” link.