The Cheyenne Veterans Health System presented a gift, which they described as well-deserved, to local veterans on Friday as the Northern Colorado VA Outpatient Clinic officially opened its doors after years of preparation and construction.
The more than 76,000 square foot facility in North Loveland celebrated its grand opening with speeches, a ribbon cutting and tours of the state-of-the-art clinic. Local veterans, government officials, members of the VA system and even Senator Michael Bennet packed a covered area just outside the front doors to celebrate the opening of the new clinic, which has been described as a one-stop-shop offering mental health services, outpatient care, pharmacy, physiotherapy, dentistry and more.
Paul Roberts, director of the medical center, said during his speech that he believes there are two types of people: “Americansand “AmericaI can’t.” He said looking at the crowd, he saw nothing but the first one.
Roberts has spent much of his time recognizing the people who make up the VA clinic system to help veterans on their health care journey and the team that made the building of the clinic possible. He said he viewed the project as “one team, one fight”, ultimately finishing the project four months ahead of schedule.
He also thanked veterans in the community for working with them and patiently waiting for the clinic to accept its patients.
“Thank you for your service, thank you for staying strong with us,” Roberts said. “We sincerely hope that when you walk through this building, through these doors, we will make you proud. Not (only) because you deserve it, but because you earned it.
“To all the veterans here, you know what it’s like to have to travel to communities outside of where you live to get services,” said Theo Bell, owner of Epic Consulting Firm, which has leased the building to the VA. “We have brought you these services here today.”
Sunaina Kumar-Giebel, deputy network director and chief operating officer of VA Integrated Service Network 19 which operates in Colorado and a number of other states along the Rocky Mountains, said it was an honor and a joy for her to speak at the event to celebrate the opening of the building.
She said the clinic, which will provide services to 19,000 veterans, will provide those who enter with the best care possible.
“Veterans and families from this community will visit this facility on some of the most stressful days of their lives, and every day, in every circumstance, they will have times when they need the VA the most,” Kumar-Giebel said. “And when they do, it is our responsibility, our promise, to serve them with the same dedication and sacrifice that they have shown in serving our country.”
Bennett said what the local veteran community deserves is what the clinic will provide, a beautiful location that provides the highest quality care. He added that veterans in the community have been waiting long enough for a clinic like this.
He added that the project is a credit to the community of veterans who have supported and waited for it over the years.
“This is the kind of care our veterans have earned and deserve,” Bennett said. He later added, “After all of our veterans sacrificed themselves for us, it’s the least we can do for them.”
After the list of speeches and the inauguration, those assembled were welcomed into the facility to take a look at all that the clinic has to offer.
However, veterans who checked it out weren’t the first to see it or be served there; Loveland resident and 37-year-old Army veteran Hank Castillon visited the facility in early March and the clinic saw its first patient on May 2 when Bruce Witt, a Navy veteran, received services in the physiotherapy department.
“It’s an honor to be here and to be in this building,” Witt said in a statement sent earlier by the VA. “The VA has been amazing for me.”
Other veterans visiting the facility on Friday said they thought it would be important to the local community of those who served their country.
Jack Thurman, a 96-year-old retired WWII Marine sergeant who took part in the crucial Battle of Iwo Jima, said he thought the building and what it offers was great, adding that he found it “very important”.
Karen Thurman, Jack’s daughter and a retired Navy commander, said she thinks it’s time veterans had access to a comprehensive outpatient clinic without having to drive far to get there. She added that preventive care is an important aspect of health care and having this clinic located at the center for local veterans will give them access to this preventive care.
“We deserve it,” she said.
Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh echoed the importance of the facility’s location and how it will better serve local veterans than having to travel to Cheyenne or Denver to seek out the VA care that the facility will now provide.
“It’s honoring the people who saved us, who protected us, who defended our country,” she said.
“It’s beautiful,” said Jack Thurman. “(The other veterans) can expect to have a great time.”