‘This is her place’ – Veterans Resource Center takes steps to reach more area veterinarians, young and old – Glenwood Springs Post Independent | CarTailz

John Pettit, co-founder of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition, speaks to other area veterinarians at the weekly coffee and donut gathering at the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Within 15 months, two Roaring Fork Valley veterans have died from mental and physical injuries sustained while fighting abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a boy, Jesse Beckius loved catching frogs, driving tractors with his grandfather, and playing soccer with friends; He would later successfully attain the rank of Eagle Scout. After graduating from Glenwood Springs High School, he joined the United States Marine Corps in 2005 before being deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2009 as a member of a scout sniper team and an optics technician. He later spent more than a year as an electronics technician in Afghanistan.

Beckius lost his battle with PTSD on July 29, 2013.

Casey Owens felt compelled to serve his district after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He served two tours in Iraq as a United States Marine Corps TOW gunner. He was injured on September 20, 2004 after his convoy was ambushed and a double-stacked IED ejected him from the vehicle he was riding in. Owens sustained injuries that forced the amputation of both legs, sustained traumatic brain injury, and was diagnosed with severe PTSD.

After retiring from the Marine Corps due to health issues, Owens joined Challenge Aspen and the United States Paralympics Ski Team.

Owens lost his battle with PTSD in October 2014.

The Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center was dedicated to two area veterans who lost their battles with PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Today, the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwood Springs, which opened in 2017, is dedicated to veterans and their families in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties in memory of the two men who ultimately succumbed to the internal fighting that killed them continued to fight after the war.

In 2015, John Pettit, co-founder of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition and Vietnam veteran, reached out to other Valley veterans and told them that something needed to be done after the suicides of Beckius and Owens in such short succession.

“You could just sense that something wasn’t right,” Pettit said. “Back then, everyone was coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Pettit went to the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners asking for donations and was able to secure a small office space in downtown Glenwood.

“John asked me if I would be okay with the center being named after Jesse and I was in tears,” said John, father of Jesse Beckius. “It was such an honor. Jesse had only returned from Afghanistan five weeks before he took his own life.”

John Beckius plays a game of pool with fellow vets at the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwod Springs during their weekly coffee and donuts. The resource center was named after his son, Jesse Beckius, who lost his battle with PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Two years later, County Commissioner John Martin asked if the resource center would expand and acquire the adjoining office space next door.

Pettit designed ideas and concepts that he wanted to establish in the new rooms and received the OK from the district at the beginning of 2020.

The grand re-opening took place in June last year and now features a computer room, practice area, flight simulators, pool table, game room and library.

The resource center actively works to appeal to and include younger veterans by offering Sunday football shows, poker and game nights, and use of a party or meeting room.

New Castle resident and veteran Jason Marshall (right) plays a game of pool with fellow vets at the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in Glenwod Springs during their weekly coffee and donuts.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The next soccer Sunday meeting will take place on November 20thth from noon. Veterans and their families are welcome to play a game of pool, watch football or movies, listen to music, or just hang out for a few hours.

“You are not alone”

The resource center hopes to not only provide a place for young veterans to hang out and relax, but also to become a place where they can speak to someone who understands their experiences if needed.

Veterans returning home from war often have a desire to get on with life, Beckius said. Most veterans find it difficult to return to daily, civilian life and try to sideline any PTSD or trauma.

“They (veterans) need to talk to other people who have had similar experiences so they realize they are not alone in this and that there are other veterans who are going through the same things as them. Hopefully they can get each other out as they talk and work together,” Beckius said.

The resource center is also open to the families of veterans and recognizes the struggles they face at the side of their soldier, whether they are alive or dead.

“Once the veteran is gone, their problems are gone, but the families are still behind and they’re the ones trying to save their lives after something like this happens,” Beckius said. “We’ve been trying to figure out what we can do on the family side. This is not only for the veterans themselves, but also for the family.”

emergency fund

The resource center has an “Emergency Fund” with an annual budget of $40,000 to help veterans with any emergencies or unexpected expenses that life might throw at them.

These funds can be used to temporarily house veterans, help with car repairs, relocation, etc.

“Our last issue helped a veteran in Aspen who hit something and tore up his car, causing $6,000 worth of damage,” Pettit said.

Veterans in need of assistance must go to the center to fill out an application and prove they have a Dd214, although they do not have to have an honorable discharge.

The Emergency Fund Committee then reviews the application to approve or deny it, or look for possible alternative methods.

“We’re trying to help, not distribute,” Pettit said. “It’s an old cliché, but it works. We really want to make sure that when we help them, we also want to see them improve their lives.”

The resource center recently hired an outreach coordinator who will lead events and find ways to reach more veterans in the hope that the center can reach its full potential. The center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. but works with veterans if they need or want to use it outside of those hours.

“We’re willing to change and do things differently,” Pettit said. “This is for veterans. This is her place.”

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