FRENCH CAMP, Calif. (KTXL) -- It was a day of celebration as the first shovels broke ground on a new Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in French Camp.
“I just had open-heart surgery in Palo Alto," said veteran David Gomez. "It would have been nice if I could have had it here. The travel back and forth, that’s kind of rough on us.”
Veterans have waited nearly two decades for it to be built and the new center will be a relief for veterans like Gomez. Some veterans must regularly make the 160-mile round trip to and from Palo Alto for treatment.
“Knowing that you’re going to get help close by, that’s really, really nice,” Gomez said.
“A world-class facility, with world-class staff, taking care of world-class veterans,” Director VA Palo Alto Health Care System Thomas J. Fitzgerald III said.
The project includes a new 158,000-square-foot outpatient clinic, which will allow the VA to expand the number of services offered.
“Today’s event is just a beginning of a new chapter,” veteran Tino Adame said.
Adame is a veteran who has worked 16 years to get the project off the ground and he said this is just the first step.
Phase two of the project starts in a few years and it’s a separate 80-bed community living center for senior veterans.
“The nursing homes are now packed in the VA system. There’s no room. We need this and we need it desperately,” Adame said.
Gomez and other veterans have hope for the future despite all the work left to be done.
“Less stress, less driving, less wear and tear on your vehicles," Gomes said. "You name it. It’s everything that’s helpful for all the vets.”