VA Center to assist tribal veterans opens in Toppenish
TOPPENISH, Wash. Trumpets sounded as flags went up in front of the new Yakama Nation Veteran Affairs building in Toppenish.
People with the Yakama Warriors Association said they've been working on something like this for about 10 years.
The new building may seem small, but head warrior Victor Wood said it's a castle compared to the buildings they used to be in.
“We would get there early and build a fire during the winter time so we could heat our building. The summer time we'd get there early and had a window shaker air conditioner that we would plug in,” he said.
Woods fought in Vietnam in 1969.
He said when he came back there was no welcome parade and very few vets even mentioned they fought in Vietnam because of how they were treated.
Woods said this place is to make sure new veterans never experience that and feel welcomed when coming back home.
“The Vietnam veterans are the ones that started all this because they did not want our young veterans coming home and facing what we faced when we came home,” he said.
Governor Jay Inslee was at the opening ceremony Monday and honored by the Yakama Nation for helping make it happen.
Inslee said there are 11,500 tribal veterans in Washington state and this is one of the ways to help them work back into civilian life.
“These people protected our homes and now we want to make sure they have a warm home to come home to. With job services and healthcare,” he said.
Along with providing help with healthcare and employment, Woods said they now have a space for veterans to come together as well.
He said just being around their brothers in arms can help improve their mental health.
“A lot of veterans in a relaxed atmosphere will release some feelings to another veteran because they know that they understand what they've been through,” he said.
Woods said the new building will be open and operated 24/7 to help the veterans who need it.
While the veteran affairs building is part of the Yakama Nation, they do help out any veterans that come in for services.
Contact info for Yakama Nation Veteran Affairs.