Tucked in a Martinez strip mall is an amazing project.
It's the first in the nation - and it's right here in Columbia County.
The Veterans Curation Project, which held an open house Tuesday, matches work needed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with labor from wounded and returning veterans.
The Martinez site is one of three the Corps is opening with federal stimulus funding. Similar projects will open next year in St. Louis, Mo., and Washington, D.C., selected because of their proximity to high populations of wounded and returning veterans.
But the site here also was chosen because of its proximity to Laurie Ott, executive director of the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project. Since leaving the television business, she's been a tireless advocate on behalf of wounded veterans.
The Corps' Sonny Trimble conceived the Veterans Curation Project as a way to pay back the service members who protected his archeological group during work in Iraq.
"That's a debt, when you hang around with those men and women, that you never forget," Trimble said.
Back here in the States, the Corps oversees some 12 million acres of land and water, and preserves "heritage assets" from those projects. Trimble's idea was to open three national centers to create transitional jobs for returning and wounded veterans who would learn valuable skills while archiving Corps artifacts.
Trimble had already settled on St. Louis and Washington as the first two sites. After his wife saw the dedicated Ott on a Dateline NBC program, Trimble picked Augusta for the final site.
The public got its first look at the VCP Tuesday. Located in West Town Shopping Center, it will provide jobs and training to wounded and returning veterans, with hopes of transitioning them to permanent jobs later in the private or public sector.
It's truly an amazing program, serving the Corps' need for preserving cultural artifacts while providing valuable help to our country's wounded warriors.
And it's even more amazing that this program is getting its start right here in Columbia County.
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