Dayton VA Medical Center celebrates rich history.

By Ginny McCabe

“Here in the midst of the Dayton community for years has been this place that was such a revolutionary idea,” says Tessa Kalman, historian for the Dayton VA. “The success of this medical center in its early years made the rest of the VA system what it was. If we had failed it was very likely they would have abolished the veteran’s system and gone the route of the pensions that the critics of the system of that time wanted to go,” she says.

The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton was one of three original homes built nationwide—one in the east, one centrally located (in Dayton) and one in the Northwest—to serve disabled Civil War veterans. Established in 1865 and growing to accommodate more than 7,000 veterans the success of Dayton’s Central Branch demonstrated that the federal government could provide care and rehabilitation for massive numbers of veterans.

“In the late 1800s to early 1900s hundreds of thousands of visitors would visit every year and that put Dayton on the map,” says Kalman. “We got a lot of attention as a tourist spot. Not only because it was a beautiful place to visit but because it was in the national mindset to pay tribute to the veterans and to thank the Civil War veterans for their service,” she says.

From its early beginnings until now, the prosperity of the Dayton VA has helped to shape the VA system across the country. The facility sits on a 400-acre campus, which is also the home to the VA National Cemetery. The Dayton VA Medical Center was awarded National Historic Landmark status in 2012. Historic designations on campus include the Protestant Chapel, Headquarters building and more.

Ted Froats, public affairs officer for the Dayton VA Medical Center, says the yearlong festivities will recognize and pay tribute to all the veterans and their families who have served and sacrificed during the past 150 years.

“In planning the celebration our Medical Center Director and CEO Glenn Costie recognized the opportunities to partner with our community and our veterans to highlight our successes,” Froats says.

As a part of the gala, the public is invited to participate in events throughout the year, including a veterans concert, a time capsule ceremony, a Garden Party & Olde Time Traveling Show, a Veteran’s Day parade, a holiday concert and a Christmas Eve service, among others. For details go to

About 40 percent of the more than 2,000 employees who work at the Dayton VA are veterans. Each year the Dayton VA serves more than 40,000 veterans and their families in a 14-county area in Ohio and one county in Indiana. It also has contracts with Wright Patterson Air Force Base and 11 area hospitals.

One example of the ways the Dayton VA is looking to the future is by working to end veteran homelessness in Dayton.

“With the city of Dayton, Montgomery County and many of our community partners we recently became the first city in Ohio to effectively end veteran homelessness, which is an incredible thing to say,” says Froats.

As soon as they identify that there’s a veteran out on the streets within the same day they can get a roof over his head, he says.

In terms of other major initiatives the Dayton VA will conduct a groundbreaking ceremony for a Fisher House this summer. The Dayton VA will also lead the way in becoming the home of a National VA History Center, which is the first in the nation. 

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