IVINS - In a ceremony filled with honor, pride, gratitude and relief, the new Southern Utah Veterans Home was officially dedicated on Thursday afternoon.
“This is a proud day for Ivins and all of Southern Utah,” Mayor Chris Hart said. “On behalf of Ivins City, I welcome everyone who will work here and the veterans who will reside here.”
Escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders of Southern Utah, a select few dignitaries arrived for a VIP reception before the event opened to the public. Among them were representatives from the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans and veterans advocates including J. Robert DuBois, author of “Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime of War.”
The ceremony commenced at 1 p.m. with the presentation of the colors by the American Legion Post 69 and Boy Scouts of America Special Troop 1685, for which the entire audience of hundreds fell respectfully silent.
The Vista Rising Stars, a youth performing arts group from Vista Charter School in Ivins, performed the National Anthem. Korean War veteran Bill Stay led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer from Pastor Rick Nerud of Calvary Chapel St. George.
Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, former director of the Utah Division of Facilities Management D. Gregg Buxton, former Rep. Dave Clark, Rep. Don Ipson, deputy director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs Dennis McFall, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs Terry Schow and Hart each delivered an impassioned speech on their personal experiences in the vision, planning and ultimate completion of the home.
Clark concluded his remarks fighting tears, offering gratitude to all military servicemen and women, especially those who lost their lives in combat.
“To me, the great honor we can pay to those fallen veterans is through service to the living veterans,” Clark said.
Stay then carried forward four golden shovels and relayed their story. At the start of the groundbreaking of the veterans home, the local Home Depot donated 12 shovels. Stay painted the surviving four gold and kept them as a memento of the monumental project. He gave one shovel each to Schow, to Hart, and to McFall and the last to hang in the halls of the home.
After one last inspiring musical number from the Vista Rising Stars, it was time for the highlight of the afternoon. Led by Schow, wielding a giant pair of wooden scissors, a group of leading figures in the project cut the red ribbon strung across the building’s main entrance, officially dedicating the Southern Utah Veterans Home. The crowd cheered, exchanged congratulations, shed a few tears and marveled at the impressive result of over a decade of dedicated work.
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Videocast by Chris Caldwell, St. George News
The home is a 102,000-square-foot comprehensive care facility with 108 beds in the housing building plus a separate administration and service building. After years of lobbying by Utah legislators and the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, the grant for the construction was approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005 and funded in 2012. The total cost of the facility is over $19 million and has created approximately 160 new jobs in the community. The State of Utah provided 35 percent of the construction cost, while the federal VA State Home Program provided the other 65 percent. The City of Ivins donated the 10 acres of land upon which the home was built.
“It’s the third new facility we’ve built in Utah that’s just for veterans, because the legislature was willing to front the money,” Bell said. “This (home) is a tangible expression of Utah’s commitment to our veterans.”
Only one facet of the home remains unfinished: A towering 25-foot-tall bronze monument of a bald eagle by world-renowned sculptor Edward Hlavka. When completed and installed, it will rest on the hillside overlooking the housing building as a symbol of the unfailing courage of the heroes who reside there, a fitting final touch.
WWII Army veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Garth Sawyers said, “I think it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened in the state of Utah. As a veteran, I’m proud to see a place like this.”
Still, the most profound words of the day were found perhaps in the informational leaflet that every participant received:
“With special gratitude and thanks to the many hundreds of individuals, families and companies who have come together to provide this beautiful facility for our veterans. There is no greater tribute than to give back to those who have given and continue to give so much. Today we dedicate the Southern Utah Veterans Home to serve for many years to come those who served each one of us and preserved the freedoms we enjoy today. The community built this house and the community has come together to honor these selfless ‘ordinary’ men and women by providing them a place to call home.”
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
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