SLIDESHOW -- Radcliff Veterans Center breaks ground - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SLIDESHOW -- Radcliff Veterans Center breaks ground

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A hero living with no next of kin, perhaps someone battling dementia, or someone who is scared while facing the twilight years of their life.  Those are examples of the stories that will soon come together under one roof in the shadow of Fort Knox.

People stop and talk to George Larsen, because he has witnessed more historical moments than most will ever know.  "I went in the service in 1948 and retired in 1971," he says.  But at 83, he wondered if he'd get to see this day -- the groundbreaking for the new Radcliff Veterans Center in a location that has long needed one.

The nursing home will be built like a community with four neighborhoods, each having three ten-bedroom homes.  It's not just designed for soldiers of Larsen's generation.

Gilda Hill, Executive Director of Kentucky Veterans Centers, explains, "We think we'll see younger veterans.  So we made modification to the building for the soldiers coming out of Iraq now -- size of the rooms, we have overhead lifts, and then we will have a large rehab area for them."

Service members sat side-by-side marking the occasion.  People like Larsen lobbied for the $40 million project for seven years.  It's funded through a grant and a mix of federal and state tax dollars.

"It's a unique experience for all of us, says Butch Ferrell, Commander of VFW Post 10281 in Vine Grove, "and seeing is believing and we're finally seeing it.  Evidently people in Kentucky really believe in their veterans."  Estimates show 85,000 Kentucky veterans live between Hardin and Jefferson counties.

Larsen points out, "Right now, most of your federal nursing homes are filled up, so the only market is civilian and they're so expensive."

Clearing has already begun on the 194-acre property that will be the site of the veterans center.  It's just over the trees from Fort Knox and on the other side of the Veterans Cemetery. The centrally-located property was donated by the Department of Defense.

It comes as the DOD prepares to cut more than 3,000 soldiers from the local post.  Gov. Steve Beshear tells WDRB's Gilbert Corsey, "We're working not only on the commanding general here at Fort Knox, but the Department of Defense.  Not only on current decisions, but future decisions because there will be more things happening down the road....We want to make sure that we end up on the positive end of these decisions."

Larsen said, "I served in Korea a second time, plus I served in Okinawa, Japan, and Panama."  He has witnessed history once again.  This will be the fourth veterans nursing home in the state.

It's expected to generate about 170 new jobs and to open in April of 2015.

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