LONG BEACH, California-Two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanders helped break ground on new medical facilities on Veterans Day at the Tibor Rubin Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Long Beach.

Col. Kimberly Colloton, South Pacific Division commander and Col. Aaron Barta, Los Angeles District commander, joined VA officials at the Nov. 11 groundbreaking ceremony for the medical center's new mental health facility and community living center.

"It's truly an honor for me to be here in Long Beach at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center with all of you to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and today, Veterans Day, by breaking ground for critically needed facilities that are being built specifically to take care of our veterans," Colloton said.

The groundbreaking ceremony coincided with the medical center's eighth annual Veterans Day celebration, which, this year, commemorates 100 years since the end of World War I.

"This commemoration is always special for those of us in the Department of Veterans Affairs," said Walt Dannenberg, director of the VA Long Beach Healthcare System. "We are dedicated to serving the needs of 20 million men and women living today, who have served this nation's armed forces."

With the support of the U.S. president and Congress, he said, the VA helps the nation repay its debt to those who have fulfilled a citizen's highest calling, serving in the U.S. military.

"A grateful nation expects nothing less from us," he said.

This is the first of the Corps' VA major construction projects to break ground in the region. Nationally, the Corps is supporting 13 VA projects, totaling an estimated $5 billion. The South Pacific Division oversees the largest VA design and construction program across the Corps. The Corps' partnership with the VA in the region includes seven major projects, and investing more than $2.5 billion in updating and upgrading facilities throughout the Pacific Southwest.

The $317 million project, calls for the construction of new mental health in-patient and out-patient facilities and a new community living center to replace aged and seismically deficient buildings. All five phases are expected to be completed by fall 2023 and both facilities are designed to be LEED Silver certified.

A $104 million construction contract was awarded to Walsh Construction Company on August 16, 2018 for the construction of the mental health facility. The remainder of the construction contracts are scheduled to be awarded by the end of the year.