On Tuesday, July 19, 2011, at 8 a.m., the Saranac Lake Veterans Administration clinic opened its doors to admit and treat our men and women veterans in the Tri-Lakes area and beyond.
Dr. Adrienne Frank, VA medical careline manager, greeted the veteran clients as they arrived and presented them with welcoming gifts. Dr. Frank and Dr. David Cohn, resident physician, helped to make opening day a success and impressed all present with their caring concern for the medical needs for those who came forth. The VA staff processed those men and women who entered that day in a friendly, efficient manner, answered their questions and concerns, and scheduled future appointments where appropriate.
Currently, the Saranac Lake clinic is open every Tuesday and Thursday and every other week, on Wednesday. The hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Calendars are available at the clinic and at the post at 202 Broadway, and soon at the local VFW and American Legion posts. The clinic telephone number is 518-626-5237.
Now it is up to our men and women veterans to come in and sign up to get into the system. Those who say, "I don't need it right now," should sign up and maintain their eligibility for present and future needs. The VA card makes you welcome at the various clinics and VA hospitals and facilities as you travel throughout the States, including Alaska and Hawaii, also wherever these services are available.
IMPORTANT! The days the clinic will be available will be determined primarily by the number of veterans who come forward and sign up. That could possibly become the entire week. The services available at the clinic through the new computerized records, and testing procedures will significantly reduce the need to travel for testing and treatment.
The need for our men and women, veterans and active duty, to join the appropriate Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion organizations has never been more needed then now. We are losing World War II and Korean War veterans each and every day. The organizations cannot properly support the men and women and their families, and continue to improve the services needed in a timely, effective manner, without the approval of quorums at the meetings, as well as the political clout with our elected representatives to improve and continue the various needs of our veterans and their families. The new G.I. Bill is a fine example of what can be done. The role that our elected representatives played in supporting the establishment of our VA clinic is a prime example of what can be accomplished when working together. Congressman Bill Owens and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at the federal level and Sen. Betty Little, Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey at the state level all played an important and public role for our veterans and families. Our thanks and gratitude to them and to Dr. Adrienne Frank, Peter Potter and the staff of the VA in Albany. We look forward to a continuing supportive role in furthering timely, expert medical care for all who serve.
At times, our care and support is for the families and loved ones of men and women who lose their lives while in the service of their country, while on or off duty. We recently had a serviceman from our area lose his life in an airplane accident while serving in Alaska, during his off-duty hours. To all concerned it was a tragic loss, and they deserve our prayers and support.
The clinic opening on July 19 was a soft opening, meaning that while opening for those in need, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. Aug. 25, when we can give proper recognition to those who helped make it possible. All the fine-tuning will be completed, and the veterans to be served by this location will have time to make any necessary changes. Peter Potter said the VA plans to bring an enrollment team to the "Grand Opening" ceremony to sign up veterans for VA health care. Those wishing to register should bring a copy of their DD214 to verify eligibility.
Next time you see a veteran or someone who is currently serving, give them a "Thank you for serving," and when Election Day comes, vote for those who support our men and women and the ideals the United States of America was founded on, with the Constitution that outlines our rights and responsibilities.
"One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." These words still hold for those who serve and have served as well for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect those words.
See you at the Grand Opening.
Note: The flag that flies over the clinic was flown over the headquarters of Regimental Combat Team 8 at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism, by the U.S. Marines and sailors of Combat Team 8.
Frank Karl lives in Onchiota is the senior vice and adjutant for VFW Post 3357 in Saranac Lake.