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History Stories

This collection of stories recounts the fascinating history behind Grand Junction VA Medical Center.

Here to Serve, Here to Stay: History of Grand Junction VAMC

Western Colorado 75th Anniversary

During the Second World War, VA hospitals struggled to meet the needs of Veterans returning home from battle. In 1944, VA announced it would increase capacity for the 12,000 service members already returning from overseas. At the time, an estimated 500,000 Veterans—ranging from the Civil War to World War II—were eligible for VA health care. However, the full impact of World War II on United States service members was not projected to peak until 1975.  

It was undeniable; VA needed 150,000 more beds and announced the construction of 29 new hospitals nationwide. Grand Junction VA Medical Center was part of this initiative and, in 1945, the city sold 40 acres of land near Lincoln Park to VA for a grand total of $1.  

In western Colorado, no Veterans’ hospital existed to care for the roughly 35,000 Veterans in the surrounding communities. The Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver was caring for thousands of active-duty service members and the only facility dedicated to post-service Veterans was in southeastern Colorado at Fort Lyon, nearly 400 miles away from Grand Junction. To remedy this lack of accessible care, the City of Grand Junction and VA began talks of building a state-of-the-art hospital to serve the Western Slope. 

The new Grand Junction hospital was designed by the U.S. Army and included plans for possible expansion. In 1947, construction began. U.S. Army Veteran Frank Cheney, who lost both legs during the attack on Pearl Harbor, was the honoree who officially broke ground at the construction site of the new hospital. The hospital, the largest building in Grand Junction at the time, was completed February 1949 and admitted its first patients on May 16.  

Over the decades, the campus and VA services and programs have continued to expand to meet the needs of its growing Veteran population. Today, Grand Junction VA Medical Center is more than a hospital. It is the center of the VA Western Colorado Health Care System with community clinics in Glenwood Springs, Craig, and Montrose, Colorado plus a clinic in Moab, Utah, spanning 17 counties and serving 37,000 Veterans. 

To learn more about the history of Grand Junction VA Medical Center, please visit

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Miracles on a Mountainside

A Winter Sports Clinic Veteran skis down a snowy hill on a sit-ski. Text reads: National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

Veterans with disabilities have been carving their path on the snowy slopes of Colorado for decades. Defying the odds, these warriors exemplify resilience and how the freedom of VA adaptive sports empowers those with limited mobility to keep thriving.

This inspiring VA winter sports event started with a recreational therapist, a Veteran in a wheelchair and a wild idea.

Let’s go back to 1982.

Thinking of new ways to support his patients, Sandy Trombetta, a recreational therapist from Grand Junction VA Medical Center, looked to the mountains for inspiration. Trombetta had learned about an adaptive skiing program held at nearby Powderhorn Mountain Resort and convinced a once-active Veteran to learn the sport. The Veteran, who lived with an autoimmune disorder that restricted his mobility, joined Trombetta at Powderhorn. He skied with the help of adaptive equipment and instructors and Trombetta learned right alongside him. Despite numerous falls, neither gave up.

Word spread about Trombetta’s work. Over the next five years, nearly 100 Veterans of different physical abilities skied Powderhorn with him. That first Veteran Trombetta took skiing in 1982, competed in a summer Veteran’s wheelchair sporting event in 1985. The Veteran had such positive things to say about Grand Junction’s program, it got VA’s attention.

In 1986, VA created the Winter Sports Clinic, hosted by Grand Junction VA Medical Center. The following year, the first Winter Sports Clinic welcomed nearly 90 Veterans from 27 states, supported by a staff of roughly 20. The clinic emphasized the importance of physical activity for everyone, regardless of ability and was dubbed “Miracles on a Mountainside.”

As the Winter Sports Clinic grows, so does its impact. In 1991, Disabled American Veterans, or DAV as it’s better known, joined as a co-presenter with VA, and programming expanded. Snowmass became the Winter Sports Clinic site in 2001 after a brief stint at Crested Butte. And, since 2006, a partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee has offered an advanced event, training potential candidates for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and Paralympics.

Today, the Winter Sports Clinic continues to promote and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, welcoming Veteran participants, their families and caregivers from around the country to Snowmass every year.

For more information about the history of National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, please visit

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