Forty-one days before his life was taken, President Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office for the second time. Among the pivotal remarks he offered that day as the Civil War neared its end was the call to “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

In western South Dakota, we’ve always taken that call seriously. And as we celebrate the Fourth of July this year, we can also celebrate the progress we’re making as a community to serve those who have worn the uniform.

This weekend marks one year since Dream Design broke ground on the new VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), which will modernize the services veterans receive in Rapid City. The concept for the VA clinic that has been two decades in the making will be a 49,000-square-foot healthcare facility at the corner of Highway 16 and Catron Boulevard. In partnership with the U.S. General Service Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dream Design is leading the project which will eventually serve 7,000 veterans in the Black Hills area.

The facility will replace an aging facility that is challenged in meeting the needs of the community and is half the size of the future clinic. Services offered at the new VA clinic will include primary care, mental health care, physical therapy, audiology, pharmacy, lab services, and women’s care to meet the needs of the increasing female veteran population.

You could say the new VA clinic was designed based on Abraham-Lincoln’s promise. It will be a healing environment for every man, woman, and child who walks into the building. The waiting rooms will be inviting and comfortable, and expansive windows throughout the facility will allow for ample amounts of natural light. The new VA clinic is designed with highly energy efficient principles and will be heated and cooled using a geothermal field on site. It is slated to achieve a Green Globes rating.

Those who drive by the building today can see just how much progress has taken place over the last year. With the interior framing complete and the drop-off canopy installed, the inside of the building is visibly beginning to take shape. Between now and September, we will be enclosing the building. The crews will install windows, finish the masonry, and add the metal panels finishing up the beautiful exteriors. The facility is expected to be complete one year from now.

We have many reasons to celebrate Independence Day, this year and every year. We live in a place where we can speak our minds, where we can worship freely, where we choose our leaders, where public safety laws are not just created but enforced, and where, through our own persistence, we can make dreams reality. On top of that, we are answering the call to be a people who honor and care for those who have borne the battle.