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Southwest Montana Veterans Home Holds Grand Opening

 A member of the Southwest Montana Color Guard observes a grand opening ceremony for the Southwest Montana Veterans Home on July 29, 2021.
A member of the Southwest Montana Color Guard observes a grand opening ceremony for the Southwest Montana Veterans Home on July 29, 2021.

Officials Tuesday held a grand opening ceremony for the long-awaited Southwest Montana Veterans Home. Managers expect to ramp up resident capacity at the facility in coming months.

The Southwest Montana Color Guard bookended the ceremony. After long-running funding roadblocks, the moment comes nearly 30 years since the $20 million Butte complex was first proposed, and three months after its doors first opened to veterans.

The event was emotional for some in attendance, including 92-year-old Korean War veteran James Ingram.

“There’s a lump in my throat. I love it,” Ingram says.

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The complex has five 12-bedroom cottages and a community center complete with a medical exam room, physical therapy area and barbershop. Ingram moved in this month from a nursing home in Deer Lodge and was quickly taken by the facilities, staff and friendships he struck with other residents.

“I can only say wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,” Ingram says.

Tuesday’s event featured speeches from Gov. Greg Gianforte, Sen. Jon Tester and proxies for Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, among others.

Barbara Smith with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says 20 veterans live at the home, which she says means more to them than a roof over their heads.

“It means they have a place to come where they can celebrate their comradery. Where they can swap stories and be understood.”

Smith says living space had been limited as managers sought nursing facility certifications, but officials plan to ramp up to the facility’s 60-resident max capacity by September.

That sounds just fine to James Ingram, the Korean War veteran.

“I’ll make friends with anybody,” Ingram says and laughs.

Despite Tuesday’s celebratory atmosphere, the veteran's home isn’t a finished product.

The Montana Legislature this year approved more than $3 million to build enclosed walkways around the premises. Fundraising is also underway to build a sixth residency cottage.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America statehouse reporter.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio