Future VA Clinic to be named after fallen Middleburg sailor

By Don Coble
Posted 6/5/19

MIDDLEBURG – The new Veteran’s Administration clinic that will open next year will be named after a Chief Andrew K. Baker, a Navy combat search and rescue swimmer who died during a training …

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Future VA Clinic to be named after fallen Middleburg sailor

Posted

MIDDLEBURG – The new Veteran’s Administration clinic that will open next year will be named after a Chief Andrew K. Baker, a Navy combat search and rescue swimmer who died during a training mission on March 13, 1997.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) said Baker was selected among five candidates by a public vote. The Congressman said, in part:

“I am extremely grateful to all of the community members who nominated individuals and shared these important stories of dedication, service, and sacrifice. I would also like to share my appreciation for VISN 8 – our regional VA hospital system. They have been tremendous partners to work with and have displayed the utmost professionalism and care throughout this process.

“In the case of Chief Baker, we are thrilled that the community chose his name for the new VA clinic and know that his service will be remembered and an example to all. When his wife Tina presented his story at the workshop, not a dry eye was left in the room when she said that all she wanted was for Andy’s name to be remembered. Today, we can be sure he will always be remembered.”

Antisubmarine Warfare Chief Baker died with his Trident 615 H-60 Seahawk crashed off the coast of North Carolina while trying to land on a frigate to refuel during a SEAL training event. All four on board were killed. Baker was attached to HS-3 homeported at NAS Jacksonville and he served on the USS Carl Vinson and USS Coral Sea as a Ship’s Serviceman.

His wife, Tina Baker, spent years trying to make sure her husband memory would be forever remembered.

Tina Baker originally presented a case to have an air crew candidate school in Pensacola named after her husband, but he finished second in the voting, she said.

“He was a simple man doing his job,” she said. “The things that come from simple things sometimes become life lessons. Now I can put this to bed. It’s done. I have great peace from this.”

The mix of rough seas, the pitch of a frigate, visual disorientation caused by night vision goggles and fatigue were likely factors in the accident. The Navy has since reviewed many of its training policies.

“It was a teachable moment,” Tina Baker said.

The wife was concerned her husband’s memory eventually would be lost by time and paperwork.

“There’s going to be some goodness from all of this,” she said. “Now it’s going to be remembered.”

The Clay County VA Clinic has been a five-year initiative for Yoho. In 2014, the congressman secured the funds for the project and worked through three requests for proposals in order to get the current site.

Construction is slated to begin this summer with the opening target date set for spring of 2020. The clinic will boast 20,000-square-feet and will offer lab work, primary care, tele-health and mental health counseling.

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