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Huge Crowd Welcomes New Veterans Home

The groundbreaking ceremony for the veterans care home on Knighton Road in Redding attracted a crowd of more than 500 people, many of them military veterans, on Friday morning.

The theme of the day may well have been “finally,” as the facility has been talked about since state voters approved a bond for construction of new veterans homes in 2000.

“This is certainly a great day, a day I thought I would never see,” conceded Don Mangrum, former Shasta County veterans service officer. Mangrum and others credited the persistence of Redding’s Maurice Johannessen, the former state senator and secretary of California Department of Veterans Affairs, for getting the project to the shovel-ready stage. The crowd recognized Johannessen’s role by offering him and the Thomasen family, which donated the 26-acre site for the home, the biggest cheers of the day.

The color guard prepares for the formal presentation of colors
The color guard prepares for the formal presentation of colors

With rain threatening and a long list of speakers on the stage, Johannessen kept his remarks rather short. He recalled that the idea of a veterans home in Redding was already percolating when he was first elected to the state Senate in 1993, and he thanked numerous people who advocated for the project over the years.

“I love you,” an emotional Johannessen said to the veterans in the audience.

“We love you, too,” was the response from more than a few.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that construction of a new veterans home has been one of his administration’s top priorities. Despite a state budget deficit that has again reached $20 billion, Schwarzenegger vowed, “We will never stop building the veterans homes.”

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thanks veterans for their service
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thanks veterans for their service

Schwarzenegger said he was in attendance Friday not only as the governor, but as an immigrant to the United States.

“I know I would not have been able to come over here to the land of freedom and opportunity without all that you have done,” he told the gathered veterans. “Thank you, as an immigrant.”

Medal of Honor recipient Retired Maj. James A. Taylor, who lives in Trinity Center, used the keynote address to encourage support for veterans and services they need, including better Veterans Affairs medical facilities in Redding.

Medal of Honor recipient James Taylor addresses the crowd
Medal of Honor recipient James Taylor addresses the crowd

“There are thousands of veterans returning home, and they are going to need our assistance,” Taylor said. “When they return home, greet them, thank them and support them.”

Raindrops fell during the ceremonial shoveling of dirt, but they did not dampen the spirit of the flag-draped event.

A Coast Guard C-130 flies over Friday\'s ceremony
A Coast Guard C-130 flies over Friday’s ceremony

Construction of the 155,000-square-foot veterans home is scheduled to take about two years. When complete, the $88-million, state-operated facility will provide residences to 150 senior and disabled military veterans.

Paul Shigley

has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.

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