Eight-year veterans’ home project breaks ground in Preston

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(ABC 6 News) – For years it’s been a dream and now it’s a reality. Veterans in Southeastern Minnesota have been fighting for the money to get a veterans’ home built in Preston. Today community leaders and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz stuck the first shovel in the ground to make it happen.

"It’s clear that this community values veterans and I think that standing here you can feel that from this community," Walz said.

Walz is a veteran himself. This veterans home is becoming a reality because of a combination of federal, state, and private money. It was passed by the state legislature in 2018.

"This is huge for the veterans, huge for the families. The chances of visiting and communicating are much greater if it’s a home that’s close," Vietnam war veteran Ron Scheevel said.

Right now, there are only five veterans’ homes in Minnesota and the closest one is in St. Paul The city is almost two hours away from Preston. Local veterans say this makes it hard for them to receive the specific care they need while also maintaining a relationship with their families.

"This isn’t just a one-time thing; this isn’t just federal funds. This is for eternity. As long as the nation stands, that place will look the way it looks today," Walz said in his speech at the groundbreaking.

The 2018 legislation also put money towards two more homes in Bemidji and Montevideo. The three homes altogether are expected to receive about 113 million dollars for construction. Scheevel has lived in Preston since he got back from the war in 1968. And he’s been working on this project for seven years.

"This was not a sprint this is a marathon or a long-distance race and we knew we had to stay with it. We knew we had to toughen up," Scheevel said.

His main goal since coming back from the war is giving back to other veterans. But now, he feels like he’s accomplished that goal.

"This day is the greatest day that I can think of for veterans in Southeast Minnesota," he said.

Construction on the new home will start in the next few months and applications to live in the home will open after that.