Nearly four years in the making, Friday the David F. Winder Department of Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic opened its doors to the public with a celebration and dedication of the life of David F. Winder.

When the doors opened at 11 a.m., hundreds of veterans filed in to see the new facility. The 25-thousand-square-foot building has high ceilings, open waiting areas, and several hallways leading to various services.

The new clinic will provide dietetics, home-based care, a laboratory, optometry, an optical shop, mental health, radiology, physical therapy, podiatry, primary care, prosthetics and women’s health. It officially opens for business on Wednesday.

Registered Nurse Ardra Klaehn was just inside the main doors greeting people as they entered. “I think the patients will be very happy with this place,” she said. “It’s gorgeous. The veterans really deserve this.”

The newly appointed Director of Community-Based Outpatient Clinics Kimberly Robertson joked about driving to Mansfield for the celebration in a blizzard as snow fell outside, “Regardless of what the weather’s doing, this outpouring of love from this community is overwhelming to me. I feel I need to move down here to Mansfield.”

A representative from Senator Portman’s office spoke along with representatives from the offices of Pat Tiberi and Josh Mandel. Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker also spoke and extended an invitation to Robertson to move to Mansfield, which brought about a laugh from the packed room. “We’re one of the top ten most affordable places to live,” he told Robertson.

The Winder and Carpenter family were present to participate in the dedication of their deceased family member, David F. Winder. Winder was a Malabar High School graduate who enlisted in 1968 as a senior medical aidman.

During an attack on May 13, 1970, among the wounded, Winder attempted to treat two soldiers when he was killed. Winder is laid to rest in Mansfield Memorial Park and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1974.

Carl and Barbara Weigel waited outside during the dedication once the facility was beyond capacity, but they weren’t complaining. “We were a little late and the place was totally full,” said Barbara. “They said we could come back later once the celebration was over and some people left.”

Putting an arm around his wife, Carl Weigel said they decided to stick around. “We waited in the car for a while but we’ve been seeing people coming out…all smiling. Everyone’s talking about how amazing this new center is.”

Along with the Weigel’s, a line of other veterans formed outside, waiting to get in, but the atmosphere outside was just as upbeat as inside the new facility. “I just can’t wait to see it,” said Parker Almand of Mt. Vernon. “It’s a great thing Senators Brown and Portman have done for us.”

I'm a California native, but have lived in Oregon, Alaska, Wisconsin and the last four years in Ohio. I love the Midwest and all the wacky weather it brings!