SILVERDALE — It’s been a long time coming, but finally the ceremonial groundbreaking has taken place for what will soon be a new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Silverdale.
“Today is a good step, it’s an important step,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, “but it’s been a step that has taken far too long.
“When we ask those who serve to step up, they don’t delay. When we ask them to go the extra mile, they don’t put up red tape. They keep their word to us for us, and it’s important this building move forward so we can keep our word to them.”
Many local officials and organizations have worked together for years to move this new VA clinic project forward. On April 2 at the new clinic’s location — 9177 Ridgetop Blvd. — the ground was broken in a ceremony attended by business and government leaders. Attending were Kilmer; Kitsap County Commissioners Ed Wolf, Charlotte Garrido and Robert Gelder; Mike Brown, president of FPH Construction; Steve Politakis, CEO of Kitsap Bank; and Michael C. Tadych, director of VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
Also in attendance were the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 11-1 “Vets Helping Vets”; national anthem singer Niki Saulsberry, the Intermediate Maintenance Facility color guard, and many local veterans.
“We have 37,000 veterans in Kitsap County,” Wolfe said. “They haven’t had the right place to go to for a long time for their medication, for their treatment, for anything they need with a clinic.
“Today is a big step in taking care of our veterans and Kitsap County. I’m extremely proud to be here.”
Garrido said that in the past, veterans have had to travel to Seattle or American Lake for treatment that they “should be able to receive … right here in our county.”
“When I think about our veterans giving their service, commitment and the ultimate sacrifice, they deserve the best healthcare in the world,” Politakis said. Kitsap Bank was identified as a significant help in arranging the finances for the project.
Brown, who runs the construction company that will do the hard work of getting the clinic started, said, “Some (projects) are more significant than others. Some come and go.
“Then there are those projects that are really special and stick out in your mind,” he said. “This is sure to be one of those projects, and I can tell you it already has been. From the time the design team and the build team got started on this project, it’s been the intent to elevate it to something that’s a cut above.
“Our hope is that as we finish this and meet here in about a year for a ribbon cutting, that all of the community and the veterans that are served here feel like we’ve met the charge head-on, feel like we’ve taken this project to another level, and that this place really and truly is a place of inspiration and healing for our veterans.”
Gelder said, “It’s such a wonderful day, and to see all of you here is definitely very heartwarming.
“Sometimes, it’s easy to use the word ‘veteran.’ It’s so much more … ‘Veteran’ is not just a label of service and sacrifice. Our veterans are our next-door neighbors. They’re our family members. They’re our employees. They’re the fabric of our community.”
With more than 37,000 veterans in the community, Kilmer said he has the privilege of serving more members of that community than most other members of Congress.
“I’ve said it so many times: Our community is stronger because that’s the case, because of the talented men and women who call Kitsap their home, who have a commitment to service, a duty to their fellow human, an incredible work ethic, an incredible sense of patriotism,” Kilmer said.
“Having so many veterans in our community also brings particular responsibilities to each of us who call them our neighbors and our friends. Our nation made a promise by asking these veterans to serve and fight in our nation’s wars and to sacrifice. We said we’d care for them because of that, ensure they receive outstanding medical care … we will do everything we can to make sure this promise is carried out.”
Garrido concluded her speech by saying, “For our 37,000-plus veterans … let’s get this building started.”
— Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at email@example.com.