River bend farm

The National Center for Healthy Veterans announced its plans for a 339-acre living space in Campbell County specifically for veterans.

The Center, planned for a location near Wards Road called River Bend Farm, will provide job training, community, counseling, therapy and a place to live for veterans. The proposed project needs a rezoning request to allow for housing on the property. The request will be reviewed by the Campbell County Planning Commission on July 27, and voted on by the board of Supervisors in September, according to WSET coverage of the project.

Bob Dees, president of the Stone Ridge Foundation and leader of the planning process for the project, said he thinks it is extremely important to take care of veterans.

“I think it’s a national imperative to take care of our veterans,” Dees said. “Our veterans are an incredible national treasure. Our veterans follow well, they lead well. Inherently they have solid values.”

Russ Nixon, owner of Nixon Land Surveying in Lynchburg Virginia, who has worked with Dees on the project, helped with the initial search for land.

Nixon said he couldn’t fathom why the project would not be approved.

“This is the most important project I’ve ever worked on in my lifetime and I’ve been doing this 36 years,” Nixon said. “If we don’t do this as a county, we’re sending a very large message to the rest of our country that we just don’t care about our vets like we should.”

Dees said many veterans simply need the right environment to succeed, and that once they are able to deal with the trauma they have experienced they can become highly productive citizens.

Dees said the worst thing for many veterans is isolation.

“Veterans are not dangerous to others, but sometimes they’re dangerous to themselves,” Dees said. “More veterans in the last decade have killed themselves than there are names on the Vietnam wall.”

Dees said he knows veterans who are living in their cars and dealing with combat-related trauma, yet are intelligent and have valuable job skills.

“That’s the type of guy that we want to bring in, wrap our arms around him, help them with some issues that they may have, and then put him back out on the road to be successful and help others,” Dees said.

Dees said the goal in designing the center was to take a holistic approach to helping veterans improve their lives, and ultimately become the standard best practice in caring for veterans.

The center will consist of five villages, each with twenty tiny homes in them. He said each village will have a central gathering place or community center for residents to eat together or host special events. A former chaplain or counselor will likely live in each village, Dees said. He also said there will be job training areas, a health and wellness center and a farm for those who wish to grow and sell their own produce, and ultimately gain the skills to start their own businesses.

“It may be financial literacy classes,” Dees said about the ways the center will strive to meet its clientele’s needs. “It may be marriage and family or parenting classes. It may be counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder. It may be performance coaching or pain management or sleep management.”

Dees, a former Vice President of Liberty University, said he chose Campbell County for this project not only for its proximity to the university, which he said was a draw as a source of volunteers and educational opportunities, but also for its people and its beauty.

“I love the patriotic nature of Campbell County and its citizens,” Campbell said. “You strongly support veterans already. I love the beauty of the county and the nature of the natural healing environment that’s there.”