SANDUSKY, Ohio (WJW)– While nursing homes across the state are accepting new admissions, the state’s two veterans homes are not. That’s left dozens of veterans waiting without any clue as to when the restrictions might be lifted.
The Ohio Department of Veterans Services confirmed to FOX 8 News that 88 veterans are on a waiting list for admission to the veterans home in Sandusky. Another 43 are on a wait list for the Georgetown home.
“The Ohio Veterans Homes have a 132-year legacy of Serving Those Who Served. It took extraordinary circumstances for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) to temporarily limit admittance to the Homes,” the ODVS said in a news release.
“The pandemic, which began to rage in our country early last year, forced the difficult decision to put new admissions on hold – a decision that was made in late March 2020 with the goal of safeguarding the 600+ Veterans who were already living on the Sandusky campus, and the more than 150 who resided at the Georgetown campus.”
Among those waiting to get into the Sandusky home is William Wynne, a veteran of the 26th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron of the Fifth Air Force in WWII. Wynne is also very well known worldwide after he adopted Smoky, a 7-pound Yorkshire terrier that was abandoned in a New Guinea foxhole in 1944.
Smoky ended up flying alongside Wynne on numerous reconnaissance, and search and rescue flights. The dog is credited with saving the life’s of more than 200 servicemen after running a warning message through a narrow pipe.
Wynne, now 98, later spent decades as a press photographer in Cleveland and learned to appreciate the Sandusky veterans home while covering a story there.
His family said he has always expressed a desire to go to the home when his time came.
“I don’t know, I think I was 67th on the (wait list) and you know, that’s exactly about where we are at right now. It’s just this virus has messed things up for everything and it’s just another of the holdups that is happening,” Wynne told FOX 8.
“We don’t know the exact numbers, but I think, given the situation up there, we are not holding out a whole lot of hope for his opportunity to have the wish that he hoped. To have to be with others that he can share his experience with as well,” said David Tabar, Wynne’s son-in-law.
Veteran and Cleveland-area native Haraz Ghanbari is also a state representative and wants the veterans homes to start accepting new admissions soon. But Ghanbari, who was recently appointed as chairman of the Ohio House Armed Services and Veteran Affairs committee, said the process needs to be done carefully.
“This is a very fluid process,” Ghanbari said. “Ohio is home to the sixth-largest population of veterans in the United States and when it comes to our veterans homes, we want to make sure that we are providing the best possible care and treatment for our veterans.”
“This is a place where they want to go to have some camaraderie. They want to go and feel comfortable, and have that as part of their service to their nation.”
“We want to make sure that as our veterans homes are reopen for admission that we can do so safely and we can do so with protocols in place so that in the event there were to be an outbreak, that outbreak can be contained. But ultimately, we want to be sure there are no outbreaks at our veterans homes,” he added.
The Ohio Department of Veterans Services, in its release, explained the vast majority of those who work and live inside the veterans homes have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and there are currently no positive cases of the virus in the homes.
The ODVS would not provide anyone for an interview with FOX 8 on Wednesday, hoping that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will lift the restrictions that prevent them from accepting new applications as soon as his address to the state on Thursday. Even then, the process of accepting the dozens of veterans on the wait list is not expected to happen all at once.
“Wel, all you can do is hurry up and wait. It’s the Army, that was our slogan, hurry up and wait,” Wynne said.
“We have been very fortunate that we have had the ability to come in and spend some quality time with Bill over his meal time. But there’s additional help that’s needed and Bill has always expressed his interest in being in the home in Sandusky over the years to us and we are just hoping to fulfill his wishes,” Tabar said.