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New VA building officially opens

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The new 7,000 square-foot building that will house the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Gallup is now officially open after a dedication ceremony June 5. Just west of the old clinic, at the corner of Second Street and Highway 564, the new facility has plenty of patient parking – eight handicapped spaces and 48 regular slots. Approximately 1,155 veterans from the Gallup area use this facility on a regular basis. Services include primary care, primary mental health, and laboratory. Other services are being expanded at this new location through Tele-medicine, a new approach to primary and continuing care.

The Director of the NM VA Health Care System, Andrew Welch, was on hand, as was a large contingent from Veterans Helping Veterans. One of the latter’s members, Tooley Brown, gave the Invocation and then led the Honor Guard in Posting the Colors as the ceremony began. Honor Guard members carrying the flags were Jack Graham, Anthony Madrid, and Mike Schmaltz.

A sparkling performance by Princess Naomi Starr Sandoval captured the attention of the audience, as the young lady sang the national anthem in both English and Navajo. Genaro Colon-Velez led the Pledge of Allegiance and the Acting Network Director for the VA Southwest Health Caqre Network, Kathleen Fogarty, gave the opening remarks.

An honored list of speakers was on hand to deliver their words to the ceremony, including Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi Miyamura, Senator Martin Heinrich, Congressman Ben R. Lujan, and Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney. Perry Shirley spoke on behalf of the Navajo Nation and Cal Curley spoke for Senator Tom Udall.

Almost all of the speakers spoke well of the return of health care provider Eunice Muskett, and received applause each time they did. The veterans have waited for what seemed a very long time for her to be reinstated.

The building does not have a name other than the official title, and several veterans were surprised that it wasn’t named after Miyamura, a local man that proved his character in Korea and who has been honored by similar actions previously. The explanation given is that the Federal govrnment does not name buildings that are merely leased, though Lujan did comment that maybe that rule should be changed, at least in this case.

The final act before Closing Remarks was the Ribbon Cutting which almost 90-year-old Hershey pulled off in one clean swipe of the scissors. The crowd than went inside for tours of the new facility as well as cake and coffee, and got out of the threatening rain clouds that surrounded the area.