Tom Florez Commander Department of Colorado

Tom Florez Commander Department of Colorado

By: Tom Florez, Department Commander, As Published in the November 2015 issue of the Internet Observer

It’s 2 am, I am a Gulf War Veteran and wide awake. Like many of our Legion members and Colorado veterans I have a difficult time with sleeping, ongoing since the PGW.  I wish my wife Deborah had better understood this difficulty.  Well, at least, I will make Darrell Myers’ suspense date.

This past Wednesday, October 7th, I was invited by our National Executive Committeeman Frank McCurdy to tour the construction site of the new Denver VA Hospital. As with many of our members and fellow veterans, it has become a life’s work to advocate and support issues of our fellow Colorado veterans.

Like the many, my outlook has been somewhat tarnished, given the delays and accountability issues associated with this project.  Weighing on my mind was the fact that many veterans I have known have past away too early in their lives…..a few to suicide. I have witnessed veterans and their families suffer in seeking medical care; this being said, you may further understand my apprehension.

At the pre tour conference I worked hard to control my tongue as representatives from the VA, Kiewit Turner and the US Army Corp of Engineers gave their brief.  I fired back at the VA representative when I felt some of the presentation didn’t support their own data and demographics.
I decided I had better cool it, not get myself worked up. Actually I got a little sick at the beginning of the tour with thoughts of excusing myself. Just a little time I thought, give these representatives a chance to share their presentations.

All of the buildings are up and the tour seemed to have evolved into an explanation of specific medical areas of the complex and how the treatment areas and space designs in this facility would be best utilized to serve and treat veterans.

At a mid-point of the tour I stayed behind the other members of the group, about ten other veterans, in order to talk to the man from the Army Corp of Engineers. Peter had been quiet and unassuming and I was direct with my questions.  He shared some of his experiences in the Army, having served in Kuwait several years after the first Gulf War.

I asked him for his first thoughts as when he became involved in this project.  He mentioned that at first he was apprehensive given all the negativity this new VA hospital has faced.  But like a light switch his demeanor and confidence to finish this project caught me by surprise.  I readily understood his commitment and dedication to serve his fellow veterans, through his own personal responsibility and effort.

Without asking him, he expressed confidence in the design, in understanding the meaning and level of importance this facility would be too many veterans. I asked him when this project would meet completion. 18 to 24 months, given the approval of the immediate contracts. January 2018 this facility will be fully operational.

In my experience with fellow veterans, I respect their words and actions.  Most will walk the walk. I have a gut feeling this facility will meet completion ASAP. It needs to. We do need to hold those in position of authority accountable. By the multitude of our members we need to continue our voice of advocacy.

As I completed the tour, I thanked Peter for his service. He is a fellow veteran, and of the type that will quietly work to get the job done.  Our America is in true need of this type of veteran, an individual willing to seek responsibility with sincere regard to serve others.

Thank you Frank for the invite and thank you members, veterans, for your service and in “Making a Difference”.