Officials of the Kansas Soldiers' Home and the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs cut the ribbon Wednesday to celebrate the opening of Hagens Park at the Fort Dodge facility.


     Officials of the Kansas Soldiers' Home and the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs cut the ribbon Wednesday to celebrate the opening of Hagens Park at the Fort Dodge facility.
     The park, which was completed with a donation from the Hagen family, is a secure outdoor area which will be accessible to residents of the home.
     "The area will allow our residents who need a controlled environment, such as our Alzheimer's patients, to have a place where they can get some fresh air and sunshine," said Carlos Urquilla-Diaz, superintendent of the Kansas Soldiers' Home.
     The park includes paved paths accessible to wheelchairs, a water feature, flowers, tables and benches and even a birdbath.

Caring for veterans

     During the regular monthly meeting of the commission, Rebecca Escalante led the Pledge of Allegiance.    Escalante's son, Brian, died while serving in the Marines, and his remains lie at the Fort Dodge cemetery.
Urquilla-Diaz and Steve Dunkin, who is superintendent at the Kansas Veterans' Home in Winfield, reported on the status of their respective institutions and discussed with the commissioners the challenges of preparing to serve veterans' needs in the future.
     "We'd like to look at some projections about where we'll be in 10 years and even 20 years," said commission Chairman Ed Wiegers.
     Urquilla-Diaz and Dunkin will prepare a report covering their thoughts about veteran health care needs, projections for populations, trends in the industry and how the resulting services will be paid for.
     "The needs of veterans vary with what conflict they're associated with," Dunkin said.
     The superintendents noted that the population of World War II veterans is decreasing rapidly, and they've begun to see veterans from the Korean conflict and the war in Vietnam.
     "We're seeing younger vets with issues pertaining to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other mental health issues in addition to medical problems," Urquilla-Diaz said.
     Dunkin added: "As we move from serving WWII vets to the later conflicts, we're not running a geriatric facility — our residents may be in their 60s, and geriatric care is considered age 75 or 80."