NORTH LAS VEGAS -- The chief of Veterans Affairs was in North Las Vegas Monday for the dedication of the first VA hospital to open in 17 years.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki was the keynote speaker at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center.
"This is about promise making and promise keeping, and in this country, that counts for a lot," he said.
For many veterans, the $600 million medical center means they will no longer have to leave town to receive the care they need.
In his remarks, Shinseki spoke of Vietnam veteran Carl Owens, who has been wheelchair-bound for the past 44 years.
"I was in an elevator taking some electronics equipment up to the fifth floor of an enlisted men's quarters in Vietnam, and they blew the cable on me," Owens said. "I fell five stories onto a concrete parking lot."
Owens has to travel to Long Beach or San Diego, both in California, for treatment of his spinal cord injury.
Frank Greenwood, of the Nevada chapter of the Disabled American Veterans organization, said many veterans have not had the opportunity to receive all their care in one location.
"It's like going to the mall," he said of the medical center. "Everything you want is right there."
The facility is designed as a $1 billion complex and is expected to create thousands of jobs.
A phased opening of the hospital begins next week and is expected to continue until December.
The center provides specialty care, surgery, mental health, rehabilitation, geriatrics and extended care.
Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller were in attendance, as was Rep. Shelley Berkley.
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