Veterans looking forward to new East Texas VA Care Center

By Morgan Chesky - bio | email
Posted By Molly Reuter - bio | email

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Some of those billions in stimulus dollars will be going to good use right here in East Texas.  Combining forces, UT Health Science Center and state legislators put more than $8 million in Tyler's pocket for a VA Care Center.

They take care of our freedoms overseas, but what's being done to take care of our soldiers when they come home.  Air Force veteran John Daniels says not much.

"We need more veteran care," said Daniels.  "We sent them to fight a war for us.  We told them we'd do this, and they went fought and got injured, come home, and we just forget about it.  I didn't forget, and I'll never forget."  UT Health Science Center is out to change that with the construction of a veteran's extended care facility off Highway 155 in Tyler.

"There are a very large number of veterans in this area who need to have these services," said President of UTHSCT, Dr. Kirk Calhoun.  Calhoun has been president of UT Health Science Center since 2002 saying the road to get the facility here has been a long one.

"It is a big step for this area getting an extended care facility that is for veterans this is something that people have been working on for almost ten years now and it is the culmination of an effort on the part of a lot of people to make it happen," said Calhoun.

When built the biggest plus of the new center will be distance.  Currently when serious medical help is needed veterans face two options, east, or west on I-20 with Dallas and Shreveport  hospitals being one hundred miles away.  With 1,700 veterans in Smith county alone, being able to receive care close by gives veterans like Daniels a positive outlook for future years.

"If they do the long term care like they said they would that'd be great you can't do too much i have many friends that died beside me and they need to be remembered and the guys who got injured they need to be taken care of."  Daniels adds.

Veterans won't have to wait long to see progress.  Dr. Calhoun says construction crews plan to break ground as early as June. If completed on schedule, the V.A. Care Center will be ready to admit patients as early as fall of 2010.