One of the Pikes Peak region's most energetic and outspoken advocates for veterans has died. Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bill Galvan, who spent the last years of his life trying to build a home for veterans suffering from ailments such as post-traumatic stress disorder, succumbed to leukemia Friday, son Dan Galvan confirmed. He was 78.
"He would literally give you the shirt off his back, give his last piece of bread. If he could give it, it was yours," the younger Galvan said Tuesday. "He expected nothing in return." Galvan was a fixture at veteran groups' meetings in Colorado Springs, seemingly always wearing his veteran's ball cap and bringing tough questions for leaders.
Dan Galvan said his father was tireless in his work for veterans, helping them through hard times, from homelessness to criminal court battles.
His biggest push was to make sure veterans in the region had housing, an issue to which Galvan pledged his energy and his money.
"Others say they want to house veterans," Galvan told The Gazette in 2015. "I'm doing it." His dream was the creation of a ranch where veterans could recover from the unseen wounds of war while learning skills.
The big idea, though, came with a $2 million price tag. And the man other veterans called "chief" didn't want to wait.
So he bought a $147,000, four-bedroom house in Security - a one-man recovery effort that gave veterans housing, food and counseling from Galvan himself.
"This is a new way of life," he told The Gazette. "This is not a flophouse."
Dan Galvan said his father mentored and nurtured a string of down-on-their-luck veterans.
Some have turned their lives around. Others returned to their old ways.
The chief, though, never quit.
"To make a difference, I have to minimize despair," he said.
Dan Galvan said he's not despairing about the future of his father's dream.
The Rocky Mountain Veterans Village foundation is still fundraising and working to line up that ranch. The latest plan is focused on a ranch near La Junta, where veterans would recover while tending cattle.
Trying to turn the dream into reality took a toll on Bill Galvan, though.
"When you give so much energy and it's depleted so quickly, it's hard to recharge," his son said.
But even in the last days of his life, Galvan was on the phone, raising cash and twisting arms to get the ranch.
That dedication will be his legacy, Dan Galvan said.
"People are involved in their bubbles and insensitive to the day to day," his son said. "He wasn't."
Friend and Gold Star mother Kim Harter said with or without the ranch, Galvan made a difference.
"He changed the life of veterans," Harter said. "He wanted to see them live a better life - the life they deserved."