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The long-anticipated Tennessee State Veterans Home officially got underway Friday, May 13 with the groundbreaking of the $70 million facility in Arlington.

Several hundred people attended the ceremony for a project in the making for about 18 years. The 28.3 acre site at 11293 Memphis-Arlington Road is near the Arlington Sports Complex and was selected in 2015. When completed, the skilled nursing facility will provide state-of-the-art care, according to Ed Harries, Tennessee State Veterans Homes executive director.

“Compared to veterans homes across the county, it will be above all of that,” he said. “We’ve prepared for this for 10 years, saving up money, putting the right people in the right places, refining our operations.”

The facility will benefit the estimated 65,000 to 75,000 veterans living in Shelby, Fayette and Tipton counties.

Irene Parker with the 100-plus member Military Retirees of the Tri-State Area in Memphis was among those attending Friday’s event.

“I’m just grateful that this is being built. It’s going to be a great service to our veterans because we need this, especially on the West Tennessee side,” said Parker, who served 33 years in the U.S. Army and Air Force including deployments to Iraq, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. “This is going to be a wonderful asset.”

<strong>Hugh Lamar</strong>
Hugh Lamar

Arlington resident, elected official and 38-year Air Force veteran Hugh Lamar played a major role in helping raise funds for the project. He compared the event’s importance in his life to the day he got married or the day he and his wife had their first child.

“I really didn’t think the groundbreaking would take place this early, but it has, and I’m glad I could play small part,” he said. “It’s going to be a great facility for this three-county area.”

Lamar joked that he might be the first patient at the facility when it opens in roughly two years.

Plans for the one-story facility include 126 beds, and an additional 18-bed house could be added later if the need and funding arise. Other features will include a community center, bistro, large gathering areas, an activity room, therapy space and a library. More than 200 full-time jobs and various part-time positions will be needed at the Arlington facility.

The Mid-South community reached the fundraising goal of 35% (or $21.2 million) of the total project cost in 2018, with federal funding making up the remaining 65%.

“It truly was a community grassroots effort,” Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman said.

The required 35% needed to qualify for Priority 1 status included $780,000 collected through fundraising efforts in the tri-county area, along with $18 million from the state, $2 million from Shelby County, approximately $240,000 from state appropriations in 2014 and 2015, and $200,000 from the Town of Arlington.

“It’s groundbreaking that I was in a position as Majority Leader to include the state share of funding for this project in the budget,” said Mark Norris, former state senator and now U.S. District Court Judge for Western Tennessee.

Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr., whose 91-year-old grandfather was a member of the U.S. Army in the Korean War, pointed out that many veterans currently must make a two- to three-hour drive for services.

“To another part of Tennessee just so our veterans could get the services they should be able to get in their backyards,” he said.

The Arlington facility will join other Tennessee Veterans Homes in Humboldt, Clarksville, Murfreesboro, Knoxville, and Cleveland.

 

By , Special to the Daily Memphian | Published: May 14, 2022