On May 26 I was privi leged to attend the “Raising of the Flag” ceremony at Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veteran’s Home in Pell City. What a way to begin Memorial Day. Standing in the morning light surrounded by vet erans, I now more fully appreciate the meaning of Memorial Day. Much like Christmas, it is easy for us to become focused on the activities and traditions; not the real reason for the holiday.
Before 5:30 a.m., veter ans, dignitaries, a few fam ily members and the staff of the home started lining the walkways in front of the building. They were there because they wanted to participate. It was not a requirement.
The ceremony was sim ple and brief: the playing of TAPS; the presentation and raising of the United States flag to half staff; fol lowed by the presentation and raising of the flag of Alabama to half staff.
Veterans made their way or their wheelchairs were pushed back into the build ing. A procession of true American heroes. Many carry memories of fallen comrades and the ravages of war.
Inside the main sit ting area had been deco rated. Veterans were seat ed around tables and the Home staff served break fast. Every employee was busy serving plates, refilling drinks, making sure every one had what was needed. Some were even assisting veterans with eating.
PELL CITY – Twenty-four soldiers from the American Revolution throughout history to the present stand as an honor guard at the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home.
The painting by Dean Mosher, “A Grateful Nation Remembers,” was unveiled Thursday, where it will remain on permanent display.
“I want to thank all veterans for their service to our country,” said Clyde Marsh, Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. “Our nation thanks you and owes you a debt of gratitude for your service.”
Marsh said it was an honor for him to serve in uniform and in his current position.
“We got to build a $50 million state-of-the-art facility, the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home,” he said. “One of the most rewarding things I’ve done as commissioner was to dedicate this building. A runner-up to that experience is the unveiling today. The painting is a masterpiece.”
Marsh said while in south Alabama, he spoke with an architect about the need for a work of art to pay tribute to those who gave service.
“I met with Dean Mosher about the tribute for our veterans,” he said. “I wanted something unique that would represent all the wars, the diversity of military branches and both genders, and he nailed it. The painting captures the essence of our military history and those who made it possible.”
Ken Rollins, Chairman of the Homes Committee for the Alabama State Board of Veterans Affairs, said every veteran wrote a blank check to the United States of America offering their lives for their country.
“We couldn’t have put this in a better location than Pell City in St. Clair County,” he said.
Mosher, who has historic paintings in museums and public buildings across the country, said he comes from a long line of veterans who served in the American Revolution and have fought in virtually every conflict since.
“Veterans mean a tremendous amount to me,” he said. “This painting is not just for the veterans here, but also for those who never came back.”
Mosher said the 8-foot-by-14.6-foot canvas took nearly a year to paint.
“It is an honor guard,” he said. “The shadows go to either said of the painting, representing the glow as you pass on, the light to greet the veterans as they pass over.”
Mosher said he used people, soldiers and sailors, rather than machines.
“That’s what wins wars—spirit not technology,” he said. “I am honored to be here with the veterans in one of the most, if not the best, veterans facilities in the nation.”
Alabama’s largest long-term care facility for veterans earned high marks during a recent inspection from the federal government.
This accomplishment is even more significant considering that the facility opened just 14 months ago.
The Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home (Howard VA Home), which opened in 2012, earned a deficiency free health survey from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“This accomplishment shows that our employees are dedicated to caring for those who bravely served our country,” Howard VA Home Administrator Derrick Williams said. “Opening just 14 months ago, this accomplishment exemplifies the efforts of everyone involved and shows our dedication to veterans.”
Just like other nursing homes, state veterans homes are surveyed or inspected annually by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). However, state veterans homes have the additional oversight of the VA. The VA measures a veterans home on 158 standards that are either met or not met.
The VA inspection is always led by a team from a local VA hospital. For the Howard VA Home inspection, the team consisted of three people from the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and five people from Ascellon Corporation, a company which the VA contracts with to survey VA homes. The team spent four days inspecting every facet of care at the Howard VA Home before determining the facility met all 158 VA standards.
“I appreciate all our staff has done to deliver high-quality care and help us achieve this honor,” Williams said. “Our veterans deserve the best care because they have done so much for our country.”
About the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home:
- Consists of two health care facilities licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health
- 174-bed skilled nursing facility
- 80-bed assisted living facility or domiciliary
- Administrator: Derrick Williams
- Director of Nursing: Toya Nelson (Interim)
- Howard VA Home Director: Manda Mountain
About State Veterans Homes:
- State veterans homes date back to the post-Civil War era when many states created the homes to provide shelter to homeless and disabled veterans.
- Like community nursing homes, state veterans homes are skilled nursing facilities designed and equipped to care for chronically ill patients who are no longer able to care for themselves.
Bill Nichols State Veterans Home, Alexander City, AL, Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Charlotte Hall, MD, Clyde W. Cosper Texas State Veterans Home, Bonham, TX, Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home, Pell City, AL, Floyd E. “Tut” Fann State Veterans Home, Huntsville, AL, Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home, Anderson, SC, Veterans Victory House, Walterboro, SC, Watkins – Logan Texas State Veterans Home, Tyler, TX, William F. Green State Veterans Home, Bay Minette, AL
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