Veterans say conditions good at Augusta hospitals

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March 6, 2007

The problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington are leading to inspections of military and veteran hospitals across the country.

Locally, Eisenhower Medical Center and the VA hospitals will be part of that process.

News 12 talked to local veterans about their treatment here at home.

Eisenhower and the VA hospitals are here to help veterans physically and emotionally. A local retired Marine tells us that help is the reason he's still alive today.

That's why it's so tough to hear about the conditions at Walter Reed, which reportedly include dilapidated buildings, moldy walls, and rats.

"It's really sad to think about the guys at Walter Reed, what they're going through," said Sgt. Anthony Johnson (Ret.), tears forming. "It's ridiculous, no reason for it. It's sickening, in fact."

This Purple Heart recipient says his fellow servicemen and women need the same treatment he gets here.

"I think the people ought to know it's not that way everywhere. Augusta is the greatest."

He says it saved his life.

More than 30 years of therapy helped him heal the physical and psychological wounds of the Vietnam War.

Retired sergeant Billy Norris came face to face with the same enemy, and he comes to the VA for the rehabilitation, motivation, and friendship

"They give you a future of where you going, what you have to do, and how you going to get there, you know," he said.

He says the VA helped him after the war, when he came home to find his father had died and his house had burned to the ground.

"They train them, rehabilitate them in a position where they can go out into the world on their own, you know," Norris said.

"We can be proud of this one," Johnson said, "because there's a lot of other ones we can't be proud of because of what's going on. It's horrible."

We asked officials with the Augusta VA for their reaction to the conditions at Walter Reed. They were not able to talk to us on camera because of meetings throughout the day.

Tomorrow, News 12 will sit down with BG Donald Bradshaw to discuss how all this will affect the Eisenhower Medical Center.

The new commander of Walter Reed used to be here at Eisenhower.

58-year-old Major General Eric Schoomaker is the younger brother of the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker. He was at Fort Gordon from 2002 to 2005.

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