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Dovetail Landing aims to assist veterans upon returning home from service

On an unassuming 57-acre plot of land just off of I-20 in Lincoln, hope is brewing for veterans and their families across the state of Alabama. Driving past swaths of fields and down a narrow one-lane road through a dense copse of trees, you might think you have made a wrong turn.

However, once you reach the end of that once-sparsely-traveled road, you know you’re in the right place once you see it: the future site of Dovetail Landing.

Dovetail Landing is a project aimed at benefiting veterans following their return home from the battlefield. An endeavor led by Alana Centilli, the project will provide a “reverse boot camp” to veterans by providing a variety of resources along with a safe, comfortable place where they can not only gather but even live in the 30 tiny homes that will dot the campus.

Returning home is a result of war that often remains overlooked. However, Dovetail Landing wants to tackle the issue head-on by providing solutions to help veterans get back on their feet. This will be accomplished through both existing and new programs, including workforce and reintegration training, post-secondary education assistance, patient rehabilitation, holistic PTSD and TBI therapy and temporary housing for both single veterans and veteran families.

Sgt. Ben Thompson, left, poses for a picture with the plans for Dovetail Landing. (Joey Blackwell / Alabama News Center)

The site will also be a place for activities such as bike riding trails, rock climbing, yoga, kayaking, fishing, ropes courses and both physical and aquatic recreation and rehabilitation.

“It’s important to have outside support,” said Lincoln Mayor Carroll “Lew” Watson, a Vietnam veteran. “You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if it’s not contagious, then you got a problem. This project is contagious. That’s about the best way to put it. I’m pleased that we’ve played some role in bringing this to our state.”

Centilli lost her son, Daniel, in 2019. While serving in Afghanistan in 2012, his Humvee was hit by an IED, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Daniel passed away in his sleep at age 30 as a result of the injury. After a period of mourning, Centilli and her family decided it was time to act. From the ashes of the trauma of war rose the idea of Dovetail Landing. Now, two years after the project’s inception, the first building is nearing completion, fittingly named Daniel’s Home.

On May 22 – the week before Memorial Day – Centilli and community figures gathered inside one of the finished rooms at Daniel’s Home to receive the latest contribution to the project: a donation from the Alabama Power Foundation. The funds will be used to help finish construction of Daniel’s Home and will allow the site to serve as a forward operating base as the project continues to develop on the property around it.

“I grew up on a farm in Talladega County, and hard work was just something that was expected from day one,” Centilli said. “And along with that, my dad – he was a lineman with Alabama Power for 33 years. When that phone rang, I knew he was going. It was either a hurricane, a tornado, an act of nature – something. And he always went, and he was proud of that. So as a child, we learned that you do it. You just do what it takes to get it done.”

That call to action from her father was ingrained in her from a young age and is part of what inspires her to carry out the Dovetail Landing project. However, Centilli will tell you that while the idea for the project might have initially been her own, it’s been able to flourish and grow due to the outpouring of support from the community.

When Dovetail Landing was little more than a concept, Centilli approached her uncle, Darrell Ingram, who serves as the county commissioner for District 1 of Talladega County. He soon helped organize a meeting with Watson and Lincoln, and he and Centilli were met with eagerness and excitement.

“Alana and I went to visit Mr. Watson,” Ingram said. “Alana gave her speech of what she wanted to do and we asked to be helped. He reaches over and pulls a map down and it’s this facility right here. He said, ‘What about this? We own the whole property – we’re talking about doing a whole complex with softball, baseball and name it Veterans Park. What do you think about that?’

“Alana burst out crying and it got me, too. It started right there. They soon afterwards donated the 57 acres to Dovetail. It’s amazing – every time you turn around there’s someone wanting to be a part of it.”

Dovetail Landing is still far from completion but is well on its way. Daniel’s Home is expected to be completed by November, and with its completion the construction on the property is expected to pick up quickly thereafter.

“What was once an initial concept is becoming a reality,” said Chad Jones, Dovetail Landing’s board chairman. “For the past two years this has been a building, a developing, a growing thought process that is going to establish this reverse boot camp. It’s a comforting place that veterans can come and co-mingle or if they just need that one-on-one. Maybe they can’t get to a case worker or a VA person that can help them immediately; we can have that here on-site.”

The project is estimated to cost around $52 million but has already received a variety of donations from both public and private entities including the Alabama Legislature. Through those donations, Centilli’s dream can be realized and the hope and support she wishes for those who sacrifice so much can become a reality.

Steve Marlowe of Alabama Power presents a check to Dovetail Landing board chairman Chad Jones. (Joey Blackwell / Alabama News Center)

“As we come up on Memorial Day, it’s very appropriate that we stop and try to assess where we are,” said Steve Marlowe, who works as a community relations manager for Alabama Power. “On Memorial Day, we think about the people that we lose on the battlefield at that moment in time, but the reality is that there are injuries physically, mentally, emotionally that can linger for years, and eventually we lose them to those injuries as well.

“Our hope is that we will save lives – that we will help people heal and get better so that we don’t honor them on Memorial Day but remember them on Memorial Day.”

If you would like to make a donation to Dovetail Landing and support its ongoing efforts, click here.