Dripping Springs’ local Veterans of Foreign Wars post has never had its own home, but has relied on shared spaces for meetings. Local VFW post founders Shorty Barnett and Gary Hale set out to find a permanent home for their VFW and American Legion posts with space to hosts activities that attract younger veterans. They alerted the community to their search with a hand-written, photo-copied flyer that Barnett posted around town.
“Any parcel of land within a 5-mile radius of Dripping Springs, suitable to build a butler-type building (2-3 acres) with ample parking area and soil for a well and septic would suit us to a ‘T,’” Barnett wrote.
Kathryn Chandler, an 11-year Dripping Springs resident and the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, took notice. When Chandler initially set out just to raise money for the VFW and American Legion posts to purchase a new site, further research led her to support a broader development that would welcome not only VFW and American Legion members, but all veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Chandler and other locals formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Patriots’ Hall in 2019.
“We like to think this is the first of its kind,” Chandler said.
Based on the feedback of area veterans—including from the 14,000 veterans estimated by the Hays County Veteran Service Office to live in the county—Chandler said the board has planned features for Patriots’ Hall including a physical obstacle course, billiards room, vegetable garden and outdoor camp area. Patriots’ Hall will also host classes such as Marine-led yoga and equine therapy, and veterans will be able to access health care through an on-site clinic.
As planning moves forward, Chandler says prioritizing the input of veterans remains important to her, which is why five of the nine members of the Patriots’ Hall board of directors are veterans, including the man who started it all, Barnett.
Chandler’s husband, film and TV actor Kyle Chandler, also serves on the Patriots’ Hall board. Kyle, known for playing coach Eric Taylor on Texas football television drama “Friday Night Lights,” said the Chandlers’ investment in the project was truly a byproduct of Barnett’s outreach.
“Without that, we wouldn’t be here,” Kyle said. "It was a little piece of paper from Shorty Barnett that started it.”
Groundbreaking on the $5.9 million project is slated for June. According to the Chandlers, the board is still working to raise $4.4 million from community sources.
“It’s all community money so far,” Kathryn Chandler said. “I can say that down to the penny, pretty much.”
Address: Hwy. 290 and Pier Branch Road, Dripping Springs
Timeline: June 2020-June 2021
Size: 7,100 square feet