The new interim director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Health Care System wasted no time making introductions in Fort Wayne.
Brent Thelen started his job Sunday. On Monday, he showed up at Raytheon Systems Co. to accept $5,100 that employees raised for patient care at the local VA Medical Center.
As a veteran myself, we really appreciate this, he told workers at the plant, which designs military communications systems.
Thelen, 48, served in the Air Force from 1983 to 1992. He worked in communications equipment support in Iraq during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
The Lansing, Mich., native has been with VA for nine years, most recently as associate director of the agencys medical center in Detroit. He also has worked at VA facilities in Phoenix and Saginaw, Mich., and has a doctoral degree in engineering.
Thelen replaces Daniel Hendee, who directed the regional system for two years until leaving this month to head up the VA Medical Center in Wilmington, Del.
The northern Indiana system serves 43,000 military veterans and employs 1,400 people, including 628 in Fort Wayne. It also has a medical center in Marion and community-based clinics in South Bend, Goshen, Peru and Muncie.
Raytheon executive Jeff Miller said this is the fifth straight year employees have raised money for the VA clinic and hospital at Lake Avenue and Randallia Drive. In the past, donations have gone for such things as patient transportation and rehabilitation services.
Miller said about 20 percent of local Raytheon employees are veterans.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, attended Mondays ceremony.
People are looking to give back to our veterans, said Stutzman, a member of the House VA Committee.