To the Editor:
At the most recent Committee meeting of the St. Lawrence County Legislature a resolution was unanimously passed that supports the development of Pritchard Hall on the grounds of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center as a Veterans Medical Hospital. In addition, there was support for using the former St. Joseph’s Home for a Veteran’s Nursing Home.
The local organization, Operation Veterans, is behind the push to open such facilities. Mr. Joe Cosentino, a Navy veteran, spoke before the Legislature and urged passage of the measure. It was my pleasure along with Legislators Akins and Lightfoot to sponsor the resolution. During the presentation that Mr. Cosentino gave to the board, he spoke of his experience last year when he visited his brother at the VA Hospital in Syracuse. After spending time with his brother in his hospital room, Joe walked out into the hallway and noticed a veteran lying in a hospital bed.
As Joe recalls the event, the veteran had lost a leg, arm and had received damage to one side of his face. Joe asked the vet if he was waiting to go into a room and the vet replied that the hallway was his room. When he was in need of assistance the veteran had to call out until someone came to his aid. I’m outraged, as all of us should be. We have asked each of our service members to be ready to put their lives on the line for each of us and our way of life and this is how we take care of them if injured?
Four years ago, I urged local veterans groups to work with me and other elected officials to create a PTSD Center on the grounds of the Psychiatric Center because of Ogdensburg’s close proximity to Fort Drum and the high concentration of veterans in our region. The fact that New York State would not accept Tri-Care as payment in full was given as the reason that my proposal was not followed up on. Now we have a push by Operation Veterans to again help meet the needs of our wounded and aging veterans.
There is no more beautiful location than the shores of the St. Lawrence River to aid in the medical and mental recovery of our service members. Operation Veterans meet at the Ogdensburg Community Center on specific Thursdays of the month. Please find time to join them as they rally to make this needed project a reality.
Vernon "Sam" Burns, St. Lawrence County Legislator