As shovels hit the dirt, a roar of applause came from hundreds in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in the San Joaquin County town of French Camp, just south of Stockton.
In two-and-a-half years, a 158,000 square foot clinic will open on the 52-acre vacant field next to San Joaquin General Hospital
Congressman Jerry McNerney worked 13 years to bring the $427 million hospital to the Central Valley. He says veterans currently commute long distances for health care.
‘I’ve been with them,” McNerney said. “I took a drive to Palo Alto one day, it’s terrible, it’s murderous so this really is going to save a lot of people that otherwise would not have very good access.”
The City of Stockton has approximately 10,000 veterans, out of 80,000 in San Joaquin County.
The VA says it’s a regional clinic, but vets could come from as far away as Los Angeles.
“Right now, for this area, we look at anywhere from Sonora, Stockton, Modesto. They would come here,” said Thomas Fitzgerald, Director of the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System
The people in attendance cheered and chanted “Tino!” for 72-year old Tino Adame as he prepared to speak. He is a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Vietnam and led the charge to bring the clinic here.
“This facility is not for us. The nursing home is going to be for us,” he said to laughter. “We need to take care of our future. A lot of us have grandkids, nieces and nephews. That’s our future.”