Area veterans and doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Oakwood clinic joined federal officials Friday in a dedication ceremony.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this clinic, because I think it’s a big step in the right direction,” said Dr. Michael Streleckis, lead physician, to some 100-plus people at the event.
The 18,000-square-foot clinic at 4175 Tanners Creek Drive opened in September, moving out of an overcrowded building off Mundy Mill Road at the busy entrance to Walmart and across from the University of North Georgia-Gainesville.
Space limitations had forced the 4,500-square-foot clinic to stop accepting new patients.
“Patients who want to get care here are getting care here,” Streleckis said. “And there are services here we did not have at the old clinic.”
The VA began operating the Oakwood clinic in July 1999, when doctors treated 489 patients. Today, the clinic serves 4,677 veterans.
“That just speaks to the number of veterans in this area who need our help,” said Leslie Wiggins, Atlanta VA Medical Center director.
Also, in an emotional part of the program, Streleckis presented World War II veteran Cecil Boswell with a plaque honoring him for his military accomplishments. Boswell was part of the second wave of the Normandy invasion.
“He was trapped and pinned down by enemy gunfire and had to spend two nights lying beside the bodies of his dead fellow soldiers,” Streleckis said.
Boswell, 96, wearing his old green Army uniform, choked up as the doctor spoke.
“I can’t imagine the hell you went through, sir,” Streleckis said, “but I want to say thank you for doing that.”
The event wrapped up with officials cutting a blue ribbon and attendees touring the building.
“I love the new building,” said Jack Whidden of Murrayville, a clinic volunteer and patient. “It’s easier to get to. It may be a little farther out, but it is still more convenient and the parking is better.”
Wiggins said the VA is “building these institutions out in the community so our veterans don’t have to travel so far.”
In the past, veterans had to travel to Atlanta — fighting traffic and packed parking lots — to get treatment, particularly specialized services.
“We are supposed to meet your needs where you present them,” Wiggins said.