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TO: Local Veterans and Supporters of Veterans
This coming Saturday, 6 December, at 12:00 Noon there will be a rally in front of the former Emory-Adventist Hospital at Smyrna. The purpose is to show local support for the US Veterans Administration to locate a new VA medical facility on the campus. You are invited / encouraged to attend.
Please let me give you some background information and explain the process.
Several months ago Congress passed a continuing budget spending bill authorizing the expenditure of $6.4 million for a new Cobb County VA medical facility. Later this month Congress will again take up this matter, and can act to move this project forward.
The initial announcement in the local press of the VA funding for Cobb indicated the inadequate VA medical facility in Austell would be closed. The “plan” was to place the new one somewhere in north Cobb. Why north Cobb? Who knows?
Since the announcement, much has changed. The former Emory-Adventist Hospital at Smyrna closed on 31 October. Losing our local community hospital was a huge blow to our community, no doubt about that at all. But, suddenly the opportunity presented itself for the VA to place its new medical facility in the closed hospital building. The site served as a hospital for 40 years, so it obviously is well suited to be a medical facility. And there are many doctors in the two medical buildings on the campus who are still working there, plus there is an apothecary / pharmacy in operation on the campus.
A key member of the Emory Healthcare Board told me that they would be pleased to receive a proposal from the VA to locate on the site.
A new VA medical facility is desperately needed. Georgia ranks 8th or 9th among all states in the number of Veterans living in the state. Within Georgia, only Fulton County (maybe?) has more Veterans than Cobb, and if true Fulton exceeds Cobb by perhaps only a few hundred Veterans. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 6 – 10% of all Veterans in Georgia live in Cobb County. The current VA medical facility facility in Austell is too small to handle the case load.
Placing the new facility in Smyrna makes sense in terms of accessibility for all Veterans in the metro Atlanta and north Georgia areas. The closed hospital site is on State Highway 280 and enjoys convenient access from I-75, I-285 and even I-20. It is in closer proximity to the Atlanta Airport that the VA Hospital in Decatur. The Smyrna site will make it easy and convenient for Veterans to find and use the facility.
There is also an expected positive economic impact from placing the VA medical facility in Smyrna. It will bring jobs and doctors to the area. There will be a need for local companies to supply goods and services. Veterans and their families will spend money while in Smyrna.
There is strong political support at the Federal and County level for placing the new VA medical facility in Smyrna. Our Senator Johnny Isakson and Congressman David Scott both support the idea. So does District Commissioner Bob Ott. The latter two have been especially supportive and I have spoken with them several times about it. Note, Senator Isakson is set to take over the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in January when the new Congress begins its term.
I am sad to say that the idea does not seem to enjoy the same strong political support in Smyrna. Council members Andrea Blustein and Susan Wilkinson strongly support the move. The remainder of the elected officials seem unsure about or opposed to the idea. I hope they will come to support the idea, and I invited them all to attend the rally.
Thus, a strong turnout of local citizens showing support for the move is important to build local support. It will also demonstrate to the VA that the Smyrna community wants them to be here. Not to mention, it will also demonstrate to the Veterans in the community that the citizens here love and support them for the sacrifices they’ve made for all of us.
The rally will be held on the sidewalk in front of the former hospital, on South Cobb Drive near the hospital’s former large sign. This is a public space and the US Constitution guarantees citizens Freedom of Assembly. So, we will assemble. The rally will not last long nor require much of your time. Signs are welcome if you want to bring them. Veterans are encouraged to wear the cap of their Veterans organization (American Legion, VFW, etc.) or appropriate headgear / jackets, etc.
I plan to forward photos of the rally to the VA Secretary. He is an Army Ranger and is someone I’ve worked with for a number of years. I will invite him to visit Smyrna and see the site. We also hope to have coverage by local media and press representatives. If you can take photos and share them with me via email it will be much appreciated.
I appreciate the support of the Commander and members of Smyrna American Legion Post 160 in hosting this rally with me. Thank you!
Please mark your calendars and make plans to attend if possible. I encourage you to share this information with your family, friends and neighbors.
Again, the rally will be Saturday 6 December at 12:00 Noon. Thank you for your support!
Councilman, Ward 6
City of Smyrna, GA