An inactive M60A3 tank sits near the front entrance of the Missouri Veterans Home - St. Louis on Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Bellefontaine Neighbors. Photo by Huy Mach,

JEFFERSON CITY — The state agency that operates seven nursing homes for military veterans has a new executive director.

Paul Kirchhoff, a retired colonel who had been working at the Missouri Veterans Commission as a special assistant, was picked by the commission to lead the department.

He replaces former chief Grace Link, who left in April after two years in the position.

Kirchhoff was making $72,600 in his former position. Link was earning $108,000.

Kirchhoff served 33 years of combined enlisted and commissioned military service, serving both on active duty with the U.S. Army and with the Missouri Army National Guard. Kirchhoff served on combat tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He has won the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Missouri Conspicuous Service Medal.

“Paul’s top priority will be to ensure the safety of our employees and Veterans in our seven assisted-living homes during this time of COVID,” said commission chairman Tim Noonan.

Unlike other state-run facilities that house people, the nursing homes operated by the commission have not seen outbreaks of the deadly virus.

Through last week, only one veteran out of the 1,350 residents has tested positive.

The department also operates five cemeteries for veterans.

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