West Central Tribune

By Tom Chervany

In the words of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Montevideo “never stopped fighting.”

The senator was among the estimated 300 people who were on hand Monday to celebrate what the fight achieved. Montevideo held a groundbreaking ceremony for the start of construction on a $52.8 million nursing home project for veterans. The 72-bed State Veterans Home facility will be built on a 14.25-acre site on the city’s east side.

Montevideo joins Preston and Bemidji in hosting the development of three new state nursing homes for veterans. There will be eight veterans homes in the state with their completions.

Thanks to a $3 million contribution from the estate of the late Steve Williams, a Vietnam veteran from Clarkfield, the Montevideo home “will be the shining star in western Minnesota,” according to Marv Garbe, who has led the community’s pursuit of the home. The Montevideo home will be the largest of the three new homes. The approximately 95,000-square-foot facility will feature a community center where friends and family members from around the region can join, thanks to the Williams family contribution. The center will be unique to the Montevideo facility.

“This is what it is all about. A home for veterans. A place where their families and friends can visit,” said Garbe of what has been achieved.

Knutson Construction will oversee a project that is estimated to require about 18 months to complete. The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin recruiting for the 140 part- and full-time jobs the facility will create in a little over one year from now, according to Commissioner Larry Herke of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The need for a nursing home to serve veterans in this region was identified by a group of local residents in 2007, according to Garbe. It took 14 years of work by the community to win state and federal support. The state Legislature approved $12.4 million in funding in 2018, and the federal government allocated $34.3 million this year. Montevideo raised $5 million in private funds for the project.

State Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, and State Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, emphasized the importance of community support in winning the funding. Miller called it an example of “what we can achieve when working together.”

He and Lang applauded the bipartisan support that made it possible. State Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls, chair of the Veterans and Military Affairs Finance Committee, was among those who joined the groundbreaking.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., said veterans deserve the care the facility will offer, as well as respect from all “... and that is what this home in Montevideo is all about,” she said.

“Thank you for having the backs of those who have served,” said Klobuchar to the crowd of supporters.

Jim Williams, brother to the late Steve Williams, said his brother and others returning from service in Vietnam did not always receive the welcome home they deserved. He said he had told his brother about the veterans home project in Montevideo before his brother’s unexpected death in March 14, 2018.

“Keep me posted, I am really interested,” Jim said his brother told him.

“Steve’s legacy of protecting his brothers and sisters and serving our country will live on,” said Williams of the contribution made possible by his brother. “Welcome home, brother,” he said.