The almost 30,000 military veterans who call Loudoun County home will no longer have to travel to Martinsburg or Alexandria for mental health and readjustment services.
The opening of the new Vet Center Community Access Center, operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in Leesburg was formally celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.
The center, located at 751 Miller Drive Suite E in Leesburg, will offer veterans and current military personnel mental health and readjustment counseling, as well as referral services. The programs will be offered free of charge because, as Martinsburg Vet Center Director Heather West put it, “these men and women have already paid the price.”
West said the work to open a vets center in Leesburg was a team effort that started with a quick conversation between her and U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10). It was eight months ago, after West realized just how many veterans lived in Loudoun County, which sits at least 30 miles from the nearest vets center.
Within a week of West approaching Comstock about the idea, the congresswoman had gathered a team of people to bring it to fruition. Part of that team included Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors. West thanked the Loudoun County government for providing the space on Miller Drive, as well as renovating and furnishing the suite.
“For this to be completed in eight months is good for any group. It is lightning speed for government work,” she said. “So thank you all.”
Comstock told those gathered that she often visits with veterans at Boulder Crest Retreat in Bluemont, which serves as a quiet refuge for veterans and their families. During her most recent visit, a young man told her that he’s most heartbroken when his fellow veterans take their own lives.
“We don’t want to lose a single veteran for a lack of services or without someone there to help and support them,” she said. “With centers like these, we can make sure that no vet goes without the support they need.”
Many of the eight speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were military veterans, including Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who served 11 years in the U.S. Army. The governor told the audience that at the end of his service he flew back from Germany, where he was treating soldiers wounded in Desert Storm, to Fort Dix in New Jersey. He remembers signing a final stack of forms and then being told, “Thank you for your service.”
The governor said there are a lot of men and women who have served the country who need more than a thank you.
“And that includes helping individuals get back into the workforce, helping them get trained and get their education,” he said. “The importance of the services provided by this particular care center will help men and women who have experienced things that no person should.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) told those gathered that her father fought two combat tours in Vietnam, and returned with PTSD and substance abuse problems.
“I know for certain this type of center would have been so pivotal to him, my mom, and their seven children,” she said. “You’re not just cutting a ribbon today, you’re changing lives.”
Contact the Vet Center Community Access Center at 304-263-6776.