Shawn Nowlin
shawn.nowlin@ourvalley.org

Ms. Marian Roache was four when President Roosevelt came to the Roanoke Valley to dedicate the Salem VA Medical Center. Here, she helps welcome home fellow Veterans at the conclusion of the commemorative pinning ceremony.

More than 300 guests gathered in the ballfield in front of the Salem VA Medical Center on October 19 to celebrate the hospital’s 85th anniversary.

Several months of groundwork went into Saturday’s event, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Preparation included involvement of several VA employees, Veterans Service Organizations and community members.

“The VAU (Veterans and Athletes United) Fallen Heroes Memorial was on display for attendees to see the over 7,000 replica dog tags of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting in the Global War on Terror,” Nancy Short, Executive Assistant to Director Rebecca Stackhouse, said. “Several Vietnam Veterans were presented with a Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin, while Rockie Lynn played his song ‘Thank You’ and audience members lined up to thank them for their service.”

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Congressman Ben Cline were in attendance as well as representatives from Senator Warner’s office, Senator Kaine’s office and Congressman Denver Riggleman’s office.

Diane Elmore, the Salem VA Designated Learning Officer, was one of many who thanked Veterans for their time, sacrifices and commitment they have given over the years. “This was a community-focused event and I could feel that true sense as I walked around all of the tables and chatted with everyone. Our Veterans were the main focus,” she said.

When first constructed, the Salem VA was a self-contained community that focused on long-term inpatient treatment with a primary focus on neuro-psychiatric care. At times, there were over 1,000 inpatient beds at the facility. Today, the Salem VA has modernized its healthcare delivery and now includes medical and surgical care, both inpatient and outpatient, and serves Veterans in the community through numerous clinics.

For Stackhouse, being Medical Center Director comes with a lot of responsibilities: supporting operations of the facility, developing plans for achieving strategic direction and making decisions that have a substantial impact on the entire healthcare organization.

“I enjoyed the comradery of the event, especially catching up with Veterans that I haven’t seen in a while and seeing how well they are doing,” she said. “This was a very friendly and warm environment that allowed people to just enjoy each other, while remembering why the VA is here and how we can all come together for a common purpose.”

The Salem VAMC has the distinct honor of being the only Veterans Affairs Medical Center to be dedicated by a sitting President, something Franklin D. Roosevelt did in October of 1934. Getting to swap stories like that with his grandchildren was a highlight for John Stone who spent 28 years in the military.

Said Community Affairs Manager Ann Benois on the significance of Saturday’s celebration,” We were honored to welcome Ms. Marian Roach who had been at the original dedication event in 1934 when she was four. She served in the Women’s Army Corps and later worked in Salem as a nursing assistant. Today, over 38,000 Veterans have chosen Salem VA Medical Center each year to provide their emergent care, inpatient, primary care, mental health and specialty care services. We are extremely proud of that.”