Charleston VA honors, plans improvements for veterans - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Charleston VA honors, plans improvements for veterans

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Photo: James Arrowood/Charleston VAMC Photo: James Arrowood/Charleston VAMC
By Sandra Ecklund

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center honored veterans and their families with a short Memorial Day ceremony Thursday morning.

The event took place in the flag garden in front of the Medical Center. It was standing room only and the crowd spilled out into the parking lot surrounding the small plaza.

Some attendees gave up trying to find a place to park long enough to get out of their cars and stand at attention for the National Anthem at the beginning of the ceremony.

Col. Judith Hughes, the commander of the 628th Medical Group of the 628th Air Base Wing at Joint Base Charleston, was guest speaker.

"Celebrating Memorial Day is extremely important," said Col. Hughes. "Not only are there lots of veterans, those who have sacrificed, there are an awful lot of people who have sacrificed in other ways whether they lost a limb, whether they lost a loved one. They're all here and that's all part of Memorial Day in my mind so I was thrilled to be part of that."

Col. Hughes said the VA was the perfect place to honor vets because of the "amazing care" offered to area veterans. According to VA officials, they received  positive reviews just the day before.

"We do reviews on a recurring basis to make sure that we're meeting the standards and exceeding the standards for the quality of care that our veterans deserve," said Tonya Lobbestael, Public Affairs Officer of the Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center.

Lobbestael said they plan to open a PTSD mental health facility located in the back of the medical center soon and have a number of research studies including an occupational therapy study underway.

But to take advantage of the services offered, you have to get there first and that means parking.

"We're looking to break ground this fall on our new parking deck, we're very excited about that," Lobbestael said. "We're also going to be adding some offsite leased parking within a mile of the medical center with about 600 additional spaces."

Lobbestael said a shuttle service will transport patients and employees  between that offsite parking and the VA which she said will be critical during the construction process.

While VA facilities around the country face criticisms for care, or lack of, offered to veterans, Lobbestael stressed the strict guidelines they adhere to and said if any veteran felt they needed help, they could call them or visit their website to find the right avenue to take.

To find out more, you can click here or call the VA toll free at 888-878-6884.

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