VA renaming slated Jan. 18

VA Medical Center officials have finalized plans to rename the facility after Big Spring's lone Medal of Honor recipient.The hospital will be officially renamed the George H. O'Brien Jr. VA Medical Center during ceremonies scheduled for Jan. 18, said Iva Jo Hanslik, community relations director for the VAMC.Legislation to rename the center after George H. O'Brien Jr. passed Congress earlier this year and was signed into law by President Obama in October, and local officials had planned to officially rename the facility on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.However, several dignitaries who planned on attending have scheduling conflicts that month, so the ceremony has been moved to January, Hanslik said.U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has confirmed he will attend the ceremony, which will begin with a reception at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 18. The official renaming ceremony will be held 30 minutes later.Also expected to attend are members of O'Brien's family and veterans who served with him.O'Brien graduated from Big Spring High School and enlisted as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1949. In 1951, he was ordered to active duty, completed officer training, and in 1952 was sent to Korea, where he joined the 1st Marine Devision.He received the Medal of Honor — the highest military decoration bestowed in the U.S. military — for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” in in the Battle of Triangle Hill on Oct. 27, 1952.After leaving the military, he returned to West Texas, where he was an active volunteer at the Big Spring VAMC.O'Brien died in Midland on March 11, 2005.A statue of O'Brien, commissioned by his long-time friend Jerry Worthy, stands in front of the medical center.“I am honored to have represented this great American,” U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer said in a statement. “Renaming the Veterans Affairs medical center in Big Spring after Mr. O’Brien will keep his memory alive in Big Spring and the United States. It will also help us to remember the courageous acts he achieved in service of his country and his brothers in the Corps.”“We're excited that this has become a reality and we will be honored to recognize such a distinguished veteran who was raised in the Big Spring community,” Hanslik said.