Future Unknown For Grinnell Veteran’s Memorial Center Post-Asbestos Removal

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

The fate of Grinnell Veteran’s Memorial Center in Iowa is unknown after asbestos was removed and left the building in bad shape. The toxic mineral was discovered in 2012 and the city paid for its removal.

In addition to the damages from the asbestos removal, the heating and plumbing systems need repairs. The building would require about $1 million in funding to prepare for public use again.

However, the city has not dedicated any resources beyond the asbestos abatement, so the Veteran’s Commission in Grinnell is raising funds to meet the goal.

“The building was built with the intention that it would be for the veterans,” said fundraising helper Tammy Kriegel.

“This really boils down to what’s the long-term use for the building? If we’re going to use the building to honor veterans, what’s the building going to be used for?” asked Grinnell City Manager Russ Behrens. “I think the other argument is what’s the most appropriate way to honor veterans?”

“I think more of my grandfather and great-grandfather who served in WWI and WWII, and I know there are many veterans here in town who have those same kind of memories of the people who really put their lives on the line. To not be supportive of that is very sad,” stated Chairwoman of the Veterans Commission in Grinnell, Teresa McCall.

In fact, of all the individuals in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, veterans are the demographic with the highest incidence. The simple reason for the increased risk is asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used in hundreds of applications and unavoidable for most military personnel.

Some studies show as many as 30% of all Americans with mesothelioma cancer are veterans who were exposed while on active duty. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does recognize mesothelioma cancer as a service-related medical condition, and while vets are not permitted to seek compensation directly form the U.S. government, they can request benefits from the Veterans’ Administration.

Mesothelioma has especially affected those who served between WWII and the Vietnam War with a particular focus on the Navy as asbestos was widely used in naval ships and shipyards. Whether it was the boiler or engine rooms, galleys, or sleeping quarters, Navy personnel were exposed to very high levels of asbestos.

A $3 million city project is currently in the works to upgrade Central Park where the Veterans’ Memorial Center is located. This would include exterior landscaping around the building and park to begin this summer.

“I think that’s been a huge roadblock. Some people are using the argument that somebody doesn’t have the same feeling toward honoring veterans as others,” said Behrens. “We have veterans on the City Council. All of us have veterans in our families. We have neighbors who are veterans.”