PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - There are more than 48,000 veterans living in Eastern Kentucky and most of these veterans have to travel at least 100 miles to the nearest VA hospital. Now, there is a project underway in hopes of getting a veterans hospital in the mountains.
As folks come to visit and pay tribute at The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Pikeville, they also have the opportunity to show support for a veterans hospital in Eastern Kentucky by signing a petition. The region has the highest number of veterans per capita in the nation, with nearly ten percent of the population being veterans.
Khrys Varney says, "Of course our veterans deserve it...they have sacrificed, them and their families, so much!"
Donna Slusher's brother served in the Vietnam War and says he is now battling cancer because of his time overseas. "He was living in Pikeville when he was diagnosed and he had to drive to Huntington two or three times a week. It was really a hardship on him and his wife to drive him....I think we need a hospital here very badly," says Slusher.
They say this is why a committee, a petition, and resolutions were formed. Disabled Veterans Outreach Representative Larry Lanning says, "They've served their country and they've served it well, and they deserve to be taken care of when they come back."
Jim Wright has worked tirelessly on the project and says he has received signatures from all judge executives and city mayors in the 5th Congressional District, but says he has not been able to gain support from many others including magistrates, sheriffs, and state representatives.
Wright explains, "We sent it to 345 magistrates, this same resolution...we got one response."
Varney says, "We have garnered almost 70,000 signatures in support of a veterans hospital in this region, all we need is for our politicians to get behind it."
They say they do not care where the hospital is located, just as long as it is within the 5th Congressional District and say they will continue to fight for those who fought for their country.
A representative from Senator Rand Paul's office helped collect signatures on Friday. The booth will be set up through Sunday at Bob Amos Park in Pikeville.