10/29/11 — Ground broken for new Goldsboro VA clinic

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Ground broken for new Goldsboro VA clinic

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 29, 2011 11:28 PM

Tom Harrison knows all too well about the wear and tear associated with long drives to VA Medical Centers in Durham and Fayetteville.

The former Marine has found himself on the road at least once a week for years in pursuit of basic health care.

So when Veterans Affairs officials broke ground on Goldsboro's new outpatient clinic Friday afternoon, the Wayne County Marine Corps League commandant was among those who braved the cold to be in attendance.

"This is a big deal," he said.

By next summer, thousands of local veterans will be able to receive care without spending hours on the road to access it.

And Gus Davila, a veteran and deputy director of VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care, said it's about time.

"America's liberty has been bought and is still being paid for (by the sacrifices of service members)," he said.

So he thanked those who turned out for taking the oath to defend their nation.

And he explained just how far North Carolina has come since 2000, when only two outpatient clinics existed in a state so many veterans and active duty service men and women call home.

The Goldsboro clinic -- a 10,000-square-foot "state-of-the-art" facility that will provide service for more than 5,000 -- marks the 24th of its kind.

But Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition president Bill Graham said due to the large number of veterans living in the communities that surround Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, it might just be the most significant one constructed to date.

"We have so many veterans who don't have access to Fayetteville and Durham because of transportation," he said. "So this will help a great deal."

And it will also save the government money, Harrison added.

"Every time I go, they pay me $61 (for travel expenses)," he said. "When you add all those trips up ... it's just a whole lot."

The groundbreaking was not only celebrated by those who will begin receiving care at the clinic next summer.

It was also a victory for the Goldsboro company that was awarded the construction contract.

Construction Managers Inc. president Robert Crenshaw does not doubt that the project will help stimulate the Wayne economy.

But for him, the money to be made is not nearly as significant as his opportunity to give back to a community that has supported he and his at Seymour Johnson comrades so much over the years.

"As a veteran and former KC-135 pilot here at Seymour Johnson, I feel a strong connection to the local community and am excited to be able to bring this necessary service to my hometown," he said. "It is an honor to be selected as the contractor of record and we will ensure that this facility will provide exceptional service to the veterans of Goldsboro and Wayne County."

The Goldsboro clinic will be located across from Wayne Memorial Hospital on Hospital Road in the Hospital Medical Office Place.

Construction of the new facility, which is an extension of the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, is expected to be completed this spring.

Veterans currently enrolled at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, who live in close proximity to the new clinic, will be given priority for care there.