HONESDALE -- After years spent pushing for the VA Medical Center to open an outpatient clinic in Wayne County, veterans finally have their wish.
The clinic started seeing vets this week in Honesdale and is already a relief for those men and women who traveled more than an hour for care.
Monday was the first day for the VA Outpatient Clinic along Route 6.
Now instead of that hour or more drive to the hospital near Wilkes-Barre, the clinic is where those vets can go for much of the care they need.
George Hibbs of Hawley served his country during the Vietnam War and all these years later has to stay on top of his medical needs. Until now, he's had to drive to the VA Hospital in Luzerne County.
But unless Hibbs needs specialized treatment he can only get at the hospital, he can take a short ride to the outpatient clinic in Honesdale, now operating within the Wayne Memorial Community Health Center.
"Yeah, it's going to make it so much easier on me. I'm not old, but not getting any younger. Plus the price of gas," he said.
Paul Sabin was a sailor and got so tired of going to Wilkes-Barre he began going to Monticello, New York for his health needs through Veterans Affairs.
"Every time before I'd leave for Wilkes-Barre, I'd say a prayer asking that I be able to get all that ways and back. It was a real wreck," said Sabin.
The Wayne Memorial Community Health Center has only started seeing VA patients for three days, and already has had 12 patients through the door with many more to come, cutting down that trip all the way to Wilkes-Barre.
"They're very happy to have something local. There's a lot of folks who've been lobbying this for a long time. Some of them were first in the door," said Dr. James Cruse.
Dr. Cruse has to learn a new computer system for VA patients and said lab services should be available through the clinic within the month. A half-dozen new employees are on board as well, all to help vets who served this country.
"We all owe something to our country, so we gave a little bit. Now they're trying to help us back out," added Hibbs.
Officials at the outpatient clinic said vets need to make an appointment to be seen by a doctor at the new location.