Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 21, 2014

Local veteran honored in Congress

BLUEFIELD — A local veteran was honored recently in Congress for his efforts to create a clinic serving veterans in Mercer County and the surrounding area.

A new mobile Veterans Administration clinic was celebrated Tuesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony after it arrived at the Herb Sims Youth Center along Bluefield’s Stadium Drive. Its personnel started seeing patients Wednesday.

To commemorate the occasion, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., appeared on the Senate floor Feb. 11 and read a statement into the Congressional Record.

“Mr. President, today I rise to celebrated an exciting and significant victory for local veterans in southern West Virginia, and to recognize the unwavering dedication of the people who have worked tirelessly to bring the first-ever mobile veterans’ health clinic to Mercer County,” Manchin said.

Manchin said he especially wanted to emphasize the efforts of Al Hancock of Bluefield, a “very special West Virginian who has dedicated the past 18 years to help veterans in his region.”

“His leadership and commitment to the betterment of the veteran community is truly why this mobile clinic will open its doors today,” Manchin said. “Throughout his life and still today, Al has answered the call of service — whether it was serving our great nation or helping the people of West Virginia. He is a retired teacher and a retired Air Force veteran who served two tours in Vietnam.”

Hancock sent more than 150 letters to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and issued a petition with more than 3,000 names to support the idea of getting a veterans clinic to Mercer County, Manchin said.

“Despite the many obstacles and hurdles, Al never gave up — he worked passionately and tirelessly to bring this issue to light. And finally, that voice resonated loud and clear. Because of Al’s perseverance and determined vision, I am proud to have worked closely with Al to help bring people together to make his vision a reality,” Manchin said.

Hancock was also recognized Wednesday at the Raleigh County Courthouse when Manchin conducted a town meeting.

“I got a standing ovation from about 150 (people) at the courthouse in Beckley,” he said, looking at the Congressional Record certificate. “Anyway, I was surprised to get this. It was a big day for us, and a big day for Bluefield and veterans. You can’t leave the veterans out, because they’re what it’s all about.”

Hancock said he planned to visit the mobile clinic regularly to see how many veterans are seeking services there. How many patients it serves will determine whether it stays in Mercer County.

“They’ve got to utilize this thing,” he said. “They’ve got to have big numbers, not one or two a week. It’s got wheels on it, and it’ll leave here just as fast as it came.”

The mobile clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It has the capacity to serve 1,200 veterans. To use the clinic, veterans must be enrolled in the Veterans Administration, VA officials said. Veterans interested in transferring their primary care treatment to the mobile health clinic can call 877-902-5142, extension 4233 or 4460. Appointments are needed to visit the clinic.

Veterans who want to make appointments can call 304-894-7694.

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