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VA medical center honored to serve area veterans

IRON MOUNTAIN — On Veterans Day we pause to remember and honor those brave Americans who have served our Nation in uniform so that we may enjoy the freedoms we cherish so much today.

In addition, President Trump has proclaimed November as Veterans and Military Families Month, honoring our veterans and their families all month long. However, the employees of the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center are privileged all year long to serve and care for more than 20,000 men and women across the Upper Peninsula and in northeast Wisconsin who have served in the armed forces.

Remembering their service is one small way of repaying the debt America owes its veterans — those who willingly signed up to go in harm’s way so that others might be free. For all our high-tech weapons systems, the tide of battle has always turned on the ability and the willingness of Americans to rise under fire, often in a strange land, and to move forward to get the job done. That is how they have kept the faith with us. It is up to us now to keep faith with them.

As we salute these veterans, we can reflect that, long after the guns fall silent, the cost of freedom continues to be paid. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, we trace our very existence to President Abraham Lincoln’s devotion to veterans and his charge to care for those “who have borne the battle.”

Almost 160 years later, the VA is standing at the ready to honor the service of those who put on the uniform and to provide them the benefits and services a grateful nation offers in return for what they have done for all of us. They deserve our best efforts in all we do for their service and sacrifice.

At the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center, our employees — 30 percent who are also veterans — are doing just that; they are giving their best efforts. We are nationally ranked seventh for quality of care, seventh for access to care, and second for patient satisfaction. In addition, this past year we were recognized nationally with Best Patient Experience award for a small VA medical center.

However, we will not rest in our pursuit of improving the care and experiences of our veterans. We are expanding our Whole Health programs, such as exercise classes for all levels, acupuncture and massage therapies, amputee support groups, stress management classes and other healthy living programs to improve the health and well-being of our veterans. We are constructing a new addition to our Community Living Center so that each resident will have his or her own room and adding four new hospice rooms.

Finally, we are listening to our veterans through surveys and veteran town halls and listening sessions, even in the most rural parts of the U.P. and northeast Wisconsin.

I cannot think of a more noble mission than to serve our nation’s veterans.

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