A new veterans resource center has opened in Cache Valley — it’s the first of its kind in the state and region.
The Dan Gyllenskog Veterans Resource Center serves more than 15,000 veterans in five counties: Oneida, Rich, Box Elder, Cache County and Franklin in Idaho.
Paul LaMont, who lives near Logan, is one of the veterans who will reap the benefits of the center.
Anyone who spends time with LaMont quickly realizes three words describe him best: loves to serve.
The 80-year-old worked as a police officer for 43 years and a police Chief for 15 years.
“I’m a person who loves the United States,” said LaMont.
A love, LaMont has committed his life to.
Stationed on a destroyer for four years in the Vietnam War, LaMont worked on Operation Dominic at the nuclear testing facility in the 1960s.
“We didn't know an awful lot,” said LaMont. “Almost every one of them died of cancer."
LaMont’s brother-in-law passed away from cancer caused by his service in Vietnam.
Since 2018, LaMont has been fighting bladder cancer and recently, the cancer has spread throughout his body. His children have also been diagnosed with skin cancer — something not in their family history.
When LaMont asked his doctor about this, the doctor told him the radiation changed his DNA and in turn has affected his children.
The origins of his cancer date back to LaMont’s exposure to nuclear radiation.
“The Department of Justice pulled my military records out of the archives at the Pentagon,” said LaMont. “You were in Operation Dominic. You were exposed to radiation. You have cancer.”
LaMont said he tried calling the Veteran Affairs hospital in Salt Lake City but was put on hold for nearly an hour — that’s when he learned of the new resource center near him.
Phil Redlinger, the mastermind behind the center, created a one-stop-shop for veterans.
“Everyone had this whole thing in their head, go send them to Salt Lake,” said Redlinger. “Well, that’s ridiculous, why would I go and do that? Why can’t we help them up here?”
It’s a dream Redlinger has been putting together since 2016, and Wednesday they held the official ribbon cutting for the new center.
The benefit, said Redlinger, is allowing veterans and active service members to stop in one place for services they would normally have to seek out from multiple agencies.
“Because us veterans? We like to get the job done,” said Redlinger.
The center has workstations for veterans to receive help building resumes or reaching out to the Department of Workforce Services.
There’s a kitchen for cooking and life classes, space for large events and even a kids playing area for families.
Redlinger also wanted to make sure they had a closet full of clothes and drawers filled with hygiene products for the veteran's experiencing homelessness.
All Redlinger’s efforts were inspired by a fellow veteran, Dan Gyllenskog.
Gyllenskog had cancer and Redlinger said while he would drive to and from Salt Lake for treatment, his friend would always help other veterans.
“That’s how strong he was,” said Redlinger. “He was adamant about making sure that we knew that no veteran was left behind.”
A saying Redlinger has turned into their center’s motto.
For LaMont, it means getting the help and hope he needs.
“I think the Cache Valley Administration has done more for me than anybody,” said LaMont.