CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia lawmakers recently approved spending $7 million dollars in state funding to build a new veterans nursing home in Beckley.
It was a long time coming. The nursing home will be the second in the state and will serve the southern population of veterans in the state.
While an additional nursing home is needed for aging veterans in West Virginia, the state is simultaneously experiencing a population decline in veterans. At the Veterans of Foreign Wars state headquarters in South Charleston, Kevin Light, a Desert Storm veteran, said their biggest issue going forward at the VFW is attracting younger veterans.
“The average age of a VFW member in West Virginia is about 70-years-old,” said Light.
With many World War II, Vietnam, and Korean War veterans passing away, Light said they are trying to draw in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
“To give us some manpower, to fight for our rights with our elected officials,” he said.
This dilemma is not just confined within the VFW. Veteran Jerry Wood, Director of West Virginia University’s Veterans and Military Programs, spoke about it before the legislature. Wood said less than one in four veterans from West Virginia choose to come back to the state.
“The question is what can we do about it from a state perspective?; whether it’s through the government or through higher education at WVU or Marshall,” Wood said.
Both men say the construction of a new nursing home will help.
“Any type of effort along these lines is a signal to our veteran and military community around the globe – West Virginia cares,” said Wood.
Light said the nursing home will be needed more than ever as the state’s veterans continue to age and will serve as a place for veterans to bond.
“We like to sit around talking about who caught the biggest fish,” said Light.
“Those that are up in the Clarksburg nursing home really enjoy talking about their past experiences.”