WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 The American Optometric Association (AOA) and its 36,000 members today announced overwhelming support for a growing movement in Congress to name the future Blind Rehabilitation Center at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Long Beach Medical Center in honor of the first ever Army optometrist killed in action while on active duty.
Originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. John Campbell (R-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the bipartisan legislation (H.R. 4360) would permanently name the nearly-completed blind rehabilitation center in Long Beach, CA after Major Charles Robert Soltes, Jr., O.D.
Major Soltes served as a public health officer with the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, in Mosul, Iraq. On October 13, 2004, he was in a convoy returning from a meeting with local Iraqi health officials when a vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device rammed into his humvee, resulting in his death.
"AOA stands shoulder-to-shoulder with leaders on Capitol Hill now working to name the new Long Beach blind rehab center after a dedicated optometrist and an American hero," said Randolph E. Brooks, AOA President. "Dr. Soltes was well-liked and a respected colleague. He continues to be a shining example of the selfless service given everyday by our fighting men and women."
Following his graduation from the New England College of Optometry in 1994, Soltes accepted a commission in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps and was assigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
While at Fort Sam Houston, Soltes became the first optometry graduate of the prestigious Brooke Army Medical Center's Residency Program and obtained advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of ocular disease and acute trauma. Later, Soltes was elevated to Director of the Optometry Residency Program at Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point.
After leaving active duty in 1999, Dr. Soltes entered private practice and accepted a position as clinical director at the Irvine Vision Institute in California. Dr. Soltes also served as an adjunct faculty member at four optometry schools and colleges. He continued his military service by joining the U.S. Army Reserve 7214th Medical Support Unit and was deployed in Mosul, Iraq in 2004.
"This tribute should serve as a permanent reminder of thousands of men and women - including countless health care professionals - serving our nation at home and abroad," Dr. Brooks added. "It is our hope that by naming this new blind rehab facility after Dr. Soltes, it both provides inspiration for its caregivers and renewed hope for its patients."
Dr. Soltes is survived by his wife, Sally Huong Dang, O.D., sons Ryan, Brandon, and Robert Harrison.
About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors. Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States. For more information, visit www.aoa.org.
Media Contact: Matt Willette 703-837-1001 MWillette@aoa.org
SOURCE American Optometric Association