New Hospital Name Honors Soldier

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

BIG SPRING - The West Texas VA Medical Center serves 55,000 veterans across West Texas.

On Wednesday, it gave a great service to one more veteran, being renamed the George H. O'Brien, Jr. VA Medical Center, named after Big Spring's only Medal of Honor recipient, making it a medical center serving veterans both inside and out.

"I being a veteran myself, I received my primary care at the Veteran's Administration Hospital," Big Spring Mayor, Tommy Duncan, said. "It plays a vital role in our community."

At a ceremony attended by O'Brien's family, many other veterans and Big Spring residents, O'Brien was honored for his heroic service during the Korean War.

Also attending was U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who pushed forward the legislation for the renaming in honor of the veterans the center serves.

"Make sure they don't have to travel to Albuquerque for regular medical care and to keep the commitments that we make to our veterans," Cornyn said. "That's what this medical center's about."

O'Brien could not be there in person after dying from complications with emphysema back in 2005 but his memory was carried by his loved ones.

"I went down pretty early in the battle," former PFC James Meineke, who served with O'Brien in Korea, said. "I was unconscious and I think, in my own heart, that Lieutenant O'Brien was the one that dug me out and pulled another guy off the top of me and sent me back to first aid."

"Even though the hospital's being named after my father, it's for the veterans that serve this country," O'Brien's son, Robb O'Brien, said. "We're just so thankful to them. That's who we're here to honor as well."

"He didn't really like to boast about it. He didn't like to make a big occasion out of it," O'Brien's grandson, Sgt. George Puryear, said. "His medal was for his men and he just wears it with pride."

The memory of O'Brien's service stands proudly in a statue in front of the medical center and now on the center itself.