Veterans are relieved to hear the VA Hospital in Muskogee is not going to close after all.
The VA had recently recommended the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Hospital close and be replaced by a much smaller clinic.
The US Veterans’ Affairs Committee said it will not close the hospital.
Veterans said that decision might be the greatest thing that’s happened in this part of Oklahoma in a long time.
“Almost unbelievable to me. It was like a miracle that happened," said Don Nichols, Muskogee chapter commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
In March, the VA sent out a recommendation that Muskogee's VA hospital close, which would mean veterans would have to go to Tulsa for services.
“We know that there’s people in southeastern Oklahoma that wouldn’t want to or couldn’t drive to Tulsa, where they’re building a new hospital, to get healthcare," said Nichols.
Don Nichols created a petition and it collected more than 17,000 signatures.
“Some days we would collect seven, eight, 900 signatures. It’s just been an amazing journey for me to see how great the Oklahoma people are. How much they support veterans. How much they support keeping the veteran hospital open," said Nichols.
Nichols said the VA hospital in Muskogee fills a desperate need and Without it, many veterans wouldn’t have access to healthcare.
“They’re all excited. They can’t believe like I couldn’t believe it like I couldn’t believe it. But, the hospital is going to stay open and meet their needs. Some of em’ like me have got their healthcare here from the late 60s maybe the 50s. So, this is their hospital.”
Muskogee Mayor Marlon Coleman said the fight isn’t over yet.
“For Muskogee it means that we have to remain vigilant. They are going to keep the hospital open, but the hospital needs renovations. It needs to be upgraded," said Mayor Coleman.
He said the next step is working to improve the care for veterans.
“We’re going to start to focus the type of care that veterans receive in the hospital. We enjoy the freedoms that we have because of their sacrifice. And it is dependent on us to make the same sacrifices for their care," said Mayor Coleman.
The Purple Heart Chapter is hosting a rally on Friday at 5:30 PM in front of the Civic Center to thank the community for the support along the way.