Wasilla Vet Center celebrates grand opening of new location
The facility off East Gardner Way will offer expanded services to Mat-Su veterans, service members and their families
WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - The Wasilla Vet Center has a new home in the Mat-Su, celebrated with a grand opening on Wednesday that featured a range of speakers and a tour of the new facility.
“We are so happy to be moved into this new space,” center director Cheryl Lundy said. “We’ve been part of the Wasilla community since the ‘80s and had been looking for a while to get into a new Vet Center to be able to expand our programs and services.”
The center, which was formerly housed off Westpoint Drive and is now located at 1751 East Gardner Way in Wasilla, boasts some 6,000 square feet of space for new and expanded services to go along with its mission of providing confidential help at no cost in a non-medical setting.
“To be here to cut the ribbon again, if you will, is important,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said at the event. “But it is also significant in that we are recognizing the anniversary of Operation Welcome Home as we honor those who served us in Vietnam.
“As we go into this July Fourth weekend, and we’re celebrating our country, let us not forget,” she said, “let us always remember those who have allowed us this celebration of freedom.”
The new location allows for various activities and notably larger group events, including counseling, yoga classes, and more. Help with depression, aid for post-traumatic stress disorder, and therapy in the aftermath of sexual trauma are all available, with the center also connecting clients with other services within Veterans Affairs and around the community.
“It’s a really, really important issue,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, who is a veteran himself. “And this center is going to be critical for this. This is the issue of destigmatizing the issue of mental health for our veterans.
“Those of you who have served in the military, you know — and this was certainly my experience joining the Marines as an infantry officer about 30 years ago — if you talked about your mental health, you had a problem, nobody did that. Right?” Sullivan said. “The culture was, you just don’t do that. You suck it up, you suffer, you never talked about, ‘Hey, I don’t feel good in my head, I feel weak.’ That was not the culture. It wasn’t. And that has to change. But the good news is, it is finally starting to change.”
Operators and others who were celebrating the opening on Wednesday indicated the new location could be life-changing for even more veterans, service members and their families in the area.
“I’m also one of the people who used the vet center when I was transitioning from the military,” Alaska State Office of Veterans Affairs Director Verdie Bowen said. “You know, it sounds — for some of you out here you’ll understand this — but it was easier to be in combat than it was to transition. And without the assistance of vet centers, I don’t think we would have the transitions that we do today.”
The center is one of 300 nationwide, along with 80 mobile vet centers and numerous satellite locations across America.
“With this new space, we’re really looking forward to being able to serve the Valley,” Lundy said.
The Wasilla Vet Center can be reached by telephone at 907-376-4318.
Video shot by Alaska’s News Source photojournalist Luke Patrick.
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