Lovell's Name on Hospital Dedication Today to Honor Apollo 13 Astronaut
Byline: Russell Lissau
A first-of-its-kind military hospital will be named after a famed astronaut with Lake County ties when it opens in North Chicago in 2010, officials announced this week.
The Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center will be the nation's first joint Veterans Affairs/Navy hospital, said U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park. It honors Lake Forest's Lovell, who flew two missions to the moon, including the ill-fated Apollo 13.
"We wanted to make sure we named the institution after someone who would be recognized and give inspiration to veterans, especially young people," said Kirk, a longtime advocate for the VA facility.
Earlier this week, Lovell said he is "truly honored and humbled to have my name associated with this great institution, (which) will provide essential care for both veteran and active duty military personnel."
The dedication formally will be announced at 1 p.m. today during a ceremony at the North Chicago VA Medical Center, which will merge with the nearby Great Lakes Naval Station's hospital to create the new facility.
Lovell, 79, will be on hand, as will Kirk, representatives from the Navy, the acting Veterans Affairs secretary and other dignitaries.
Actor Gary Sinise, a Chicago-area native who co-starred in the blockbuster movie about the Apollo 13 mission, is set to speak, too. Sinise later will perform for the troops at Great Lakes with his musical group, the Lt. Dan Band.
Lovell is best known for commanding the 1970 Apollo 13 flight, which suffered a crippling malfunction in space but returned safely to Earth. He also was a Navy test pilot and combat pilot whose decorations include two Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. …