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Veterans, elected officials celebrate opening of Leesburg Vet Center

U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R); Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D); Dr. Heather West, Director, Martinsburg Vet Center; Donald Loren, assistant secretary of operations, security and preparedness at the Veterans Administration; Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D). Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko
It's a new day for Loudoun County and its approximately 30,000 veterans.

Local veterans and elected officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.-10th) and Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D), heralded the opening of the Vet Center Community Access Center in Leesburg Monday.

The new Vet Center, located at 751 Miller Dr., offers a certified counselor to help veterans and their families with mental health needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder, marriage and family counseling, military sexual trauma, substance abuse, anxiety and depression.

In November 2017, Loudoun County signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide office space in the county-owned facility beginning this year.

“This project came through in eight months,” said Dr. Heather West, director of the Martinsburg Vet Center, which spearheaded the project. “That is fast for any project – it is lightening speed for government work. And we are incredibly proud of that.”

West praised Comstock for quickly gathering the stakeholders who helped get the Vet Center off the ground.

Gov. Northam, a veteran who served as an Army doctor in Desert Storm, said members of the military are dealing with conditions no person should have to endure, whether it's post-traumatic stress, depression or traumatic brain injuries.

“We have just an unacceptable number of veterans that commit suicide each day. That is why these centers are so important,” Northam said.

The new facility will serve veterans, active military and their families in Loudoun, Clarke County and western Fairfax County. Appointments at the center can be made by calling 304-263-6776.

Randall, who considers herself a “military brat,” said a veterans care center like the one in Leesburg would have been a hugely beneficial to her family.

“My father came back with PTSD, he came back with substance abuse problems, and I know that a center like this would have been so pivotal to his life, to my mother's life and to all seven of us children,” Randall said.

The Leesburg Vet Center follows the opening last year of a veterans benefits center in Ashburn, which provides employment, education, benefits and family services to former service members.

“Today marks a great day for Loudoun, Clarke and Fairfax County service members, veterans and their families, as they will no longer have to travel to Martinsburg, West Virginia or Alexandria for much-needed mental health and readjustment services," said Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), a veteran who was on hand for Monday's event.

From left, Mecca Hall with the office U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D); Steven Combs, deputy commissioner of Virginia Department of Veterans Services; U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R); Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D); Dr. Heather West, Director, Martinsburg Vet Center; Donald Loren, assistant secretary of operations, security and preparedness at the Veterans Administration; Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D); Michael Fisher, chief officer of the Veterans Administration Readjustment Counseling Service. Courtesy Photo/Loudoun County

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