Randall Akins remembers coming to Panama City, Florida, as a child. His parents would bring their four sons to fish every summer and he always thought, one day I am going to move to this place. That’s how much he loved it. Turns out, he and two of his brothers did just that. They all ended up in Panama City, they still fish and in fact, are boat captains and work in the charter boat industry.

“It would take a lot more than a hurricane, even one as big as this one, to run me out of town,” Akins said. “We love it here and wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.”

Akins served in the Coast Guard for three years in the late 1960s. He didn’t come to the VA for his health care until about five years ago. He explains, “I saw an advertisement for one of those Town Halls that VA holds periodically. My brother, he’s an Air Force Veteran, said, why don’t we go and see what this is all about. So we did. I enrolled in VA health care that night and have been using VA here in Panama City. They are cheerful, friendly and responsive. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Akins said his house had roof damage, like most, and he is having issues with getting the water turned back on because of faulty water lines. He heard about the emergency assistance VA brought in to help Veterans recover from Hurricane Michael from the local news station. He had a prescription that needed refilling, so he stopped by to see if he could get a refill. He said he was floored at what he found when he walked into “tent city.”

“There are not enough words in the English language that I could use to describe how grateful I am for VA being here and doing all of this for us Veterans,” Akins said. “I have come by every day to get a hot meal, to see smiling faces, and to witness the work you people are doing here.”

After a short pause to collect himself, he looked around again at all the VA staff, moving quickly from one tent or trailer to another, assisting Veterans and with tears welling in his eyes, said, “It is very difficult right now for me to say thank you because it means so much to me. But know that I will be forever grateful to VA for being here for us.”

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Published on Nov. 8, 2018

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