LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - What better start to Memorial weekend than to make good on a promise-- a promise to local veterans who have had to drive out of town for medical care for years. Eighty six year old Pierre Fontenot served in the Philippines, Okinawa and Korea. He has his share of health problems. "First I couldn't hardly breathe. They gave me a nebulizer. I'm still using it. I used to use it four times a day. Now I do it once a day."
He says not having to travel out of town will make a big difference. "Aw. My daughter used to miss work to drive me to Jennings. I guess I can drive here," said Fontenot.
That recent contract snafu that created more delays is a sore spot with many. Said American Legion State Commander Larry Abshire, "Can you imagine a federal agency that is in charge of building clinics picks up the wrong form and fills it out and carries that form through for almost three years. That's a travesty. This has set us back two more years. To appease us we have this mobile unit."
Jim Jackson is the Commander of American Legion Post 1 in Lake Charles. "We've been about fourteen years working on this. Our veterans deserve something like this, we deserve better. Our clinics should already be up and running. But this it's a start."
Viet Nam Veteran, Nathaniel Sapp, is pleased. "People down here been looking forward to this for a long time. Finally becoming a reality." Reporter: "What difference is it going to make for you personally?" "It's going to make a hundred and something hours of travel and I have a place that if need be I can go in a hurry," said Sapp.
Still, Dr. Keith DeSonier, himself a veteran, says the mobile clinic is a big help. "Your first entry needs can be met here and for those who need a little bit more will go away. So we may be able to take care of sixty to eight per cent of the people right here in our community without a long travel which is a great effort to go to Houston, to go to Alexandria, Baton Rouge, New Orleans to the VAs down there."
The clinic drove away so more medical equipment can be installed. But VA Medical Director from Alexandria Gracie Specks says a permanent clinic is coming. "I will not stop, my staff will not stop, Our congressional delegation will not stop, and the secretary of veterans affairs, who is a veteran himself, will not stop, until we get a permanent clinic in Lake Charles to serve the health care needs of our veterans right here in this city."
The clinic will offer basic health services for local veterans, and primary care services will be available three days per week.
Officials say they won't rest until a permanent clinic is established to serve veterans. For more information you can go to www.alexandria.va.gov or call 318-466-4500.