NEWS | Feb. 28, 2019

Colorado helps Western Slope veterans, families live grand

By Elena O'Bryan, Colorado National Guard Public Affairs DMVA

A vacant armory, where several Colorado National Guard units trained for warfight and homeland defense missions between 1959 and 2015, stands in the heart of the Grand Valley on Colorado’s Western Slope. Field artillery gave way to a combat support hospital, then a signal company, and, finally, the Colorado Army National Guard’s 947th Engineering Company, which is now located in Montrose. After that, the drill floor fell silent. Soon that, too, will change.

House Bill 18-1337 authorized the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to operate a One Source to connect service members, veterans, and their families to a wide range of community resources on the Western Slope.

The DMVA will spend $3.5 million to renovate the 14,000-square-foot state-owned facility. The State of Colorado sourced a majority of the design, construction, materials and labor from Grand Junction and other communities along the Western Slope.

“With the Governor’s leadership and the support of the General Assembly, we are boldly moving our state forward to improve the quality of life for our service members, veterans, and their families, making Colorado even more of a military- and veteran-friendly state,” The Adjutant General of Colorado U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Loh said.

The WROS staff and Advisory Committee will host an open house and tours every half hour March 8, 2019, 4-8 p.m. at 482 28 Road, Grand Junction, CO. The ribbon-cutting will happen May 9, 2019, at 11 a.m.

Steve Root serves on the advisory committee for the One Source. He retired from the USAF as a colonel in 2001. On a frosty day in December, he stood at the entrance to the construction site. He wore a USAF hat and launched a big smile. Windows in the reception area admitted beams of bright Colorado sunshine that lit a path into the One Source.

“The whole crux of the One Source is that it’s one stop, and you get what you need,” he said.

According to Root, the One Source will eventually connect military members, veterans, and their families to some 20-30 organizations dedicated to supporting veterans in Grand Junction. The WROS and its partners will show veterans and their families how to find legal help, housing, jobs, and even yoga classes. A Veterans Service Officer will assist with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims.

“There’s a lot of interest. We want our community resources to come here. We can’t wait until it’s done,” Root said.

One such resource, the VA’s Western Colorado Health Care System, is seeking a sole source leasing agreement in order to embed staff at the One Source. The WCHCS is less than half a mile from the WROS and already serves 37,000 veterans residing on the Western Slope.

“I think it’s vital that the state and federal partners work together at a veterans one stop shop,” WCHCS Director Michael T. Kilmer said. “A One Source like this puts more of the focus on benefits and services rather than healthcare.”

“It can be a bridge between medical and services and is more holistic,” he said.

He said he also looks forward to the One Source preparing military members and their families for the transition to civilian life.

Shawn Montgomery, a veteran, said he could have benefited from a visit to the One Source after he separated from the Active Duty U.S. Army in 2005. He is now the WCHCS’s acting director of the office of communications and community development.

“Having a place like this in town where you can swing in and get what you need, I wish that I’d had that when I first got out,” he said. “I didn’t have time and energy to go through the process. It was too hard.”

“We’ve such a close-knit community, but we’re spread out,” Director of the Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs-West Joanne Iglesias said. “I’m excited for us to have a closer connection in one space.”

“When the One Source opens, rather than driving a long distance, they will be able to find what they need close to home,” Deputy Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Michael Hunt said.

This story contained inaccurate information that has since been corrected.  We apologize for the error.