A group of area veterans is tackling a new mission - they're transforming a downtown building and putting it to a new use.
The old Bob Jones Shoes building is located at 15th and Main streets. Soon it will be transformed into a military restaurant and entertainment establishment, the first of its kind in the country.
"It's a home away from home for active duty and veterans. It's a place where they can come in and relax and see a friendly face," Col. Don Ballard said.
Ballard was in the military for 35 years. He's the only living Medal of Honor recipient in Missouri and, in his spare time, he travels around the country visiting veterans with actor Gary Sinise. He said he was embarrassed Kansas City didn't have a United Service Organization, or USO, so he and veteran Commander Spencer Hardin are trying to change that.
"We are going through and cleaning it out and we're going to rehab some of it to make it into a restaurant and bar and try to put it into condition to be a top spot in the neighborhood," Hardin said.
Volunteers from local unions are helping with the labor, but more are always needed. The restaurant will be open to the public and military memorabilia will cover the walls and ceilings.
The goal is to educate the public while having crucial services for the men and women in the U.S. military
"Drug rehabilitation, presumed we have that problem. We also have to have an employment network and training network for vets that come back. And then last, of course, is suicide prevention which is an epidemic right now," Hardin said.
It's a big undertaking for Ballard and Hardin, but it's a way to say thank you to those who have followed in their footsteps to serve their country.
"For the love of being a patriotic citizen, we want to supports our troops," Ballard said.
Organizers said the goal is to be open by May 1.
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