By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 22, 2012) -- Families of injured and ill service members have a new home away from home.
At Fort Belvoir, Va., a short distance from the Pentagon, out the front door of the brand new, spacious, state-of-the-art Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, visitors and patients can see the brand new Fisher House that was opened for business during a ceremony, May 22.
There are nearly 60 Fisher House Foundation homes now on military bases in the United States and Germany. The homes provide private suites for the families of military members receiving care at military hospitals, and have common kitchens, laundry facilities and dining rooms. Military families do not pay to stay at any Fisher House.
According to Ken Fisher, of the Fisher House Foundation, the foundation has provided 4 million nights of lodging for family members, has served 170,000 families and saved them $180 million in associated lodging and travel expenses.
"We owe these men and women and those who wore this nation's uniform a debt we could never hope to repay," Fisher said. "It's more than just words. It's more than just building houses. It's remembering that behind each and every man or woman that wears this nation's uniform is a family. And that family serves this nation too. They make sacrifices and bear burdens that the average American has no concept of."
When a service member is injured, those families suffer too, Fisher said, they too sacrifice for America. The Fisher House Foundation helps those families through those troubled times, when their loved ones are in the hospital receiving care for the wounds they suffered while wearing their military uniform.
"It provides that home away from home; it provides, not just that room that they can stay in and sleep and rest, it provides a support system, so that the families can share the joy of the good days, they can help each other on the bad days," Fisher said. "Not every story has a happy ending, but at Fisher House we have focused on the healing process. Helping these families, to us, is as important as helping the service man or woman, especially during those times."
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III said that war sometimes can bring out the best in people, and that the outpouring of generosity over the last decade has been "a positive outcome" of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The kindness shown by so many across this great nation has been both humbling and inspiring," Austin said. "There is no greater example of this than what we are witnessing here today."
The Fisher House Foundation, Austin said, along with the donors and organizations that support it, have had "an immeasurable impact" on the military, veterans and their families.
While service members are getting care at military hospitals around the world, at Fisher House, Austin said, they are being provided "with the very best medicine possible: and that medicine is the love and support of their family members."
The commander of the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Col. Susan Annicelli, said the new home is a "stunning addition to the community, and a phenomenal resource to patients and families receiving care at Fort Belvoir and within the National Capital Region."
The Fort Belvoir Fisher House features 12 suites for families.
"The home offers a nurturing refuge from the stress and vulnerability of hospitalization, rehabilitation, and recovery," Annicelli said. "It's a true complement to the healing environment. The home promotes a sense of community while bringing the comfort of a home away from home at a time needed by both patients and the families who have supported them."
Annicelli said the Fisher House Foundation has supported military and veteran families for more than 20 years now with a commitment to both patient- and family-centered care that "extends well beyond the walls of the hospital."
"On behalf of all our treatment teams here at Fort Belvoir, thank you for your generosity, and continued focus on making a difference in the lives of our service members each and every day," Annicelli said.
There are now Fisher Houses in more than 20 states, in addition to houses in Washington, D.C., and in Germany. The Fisher House Foundation has also donated money to open a Fisher House in the United Kingdom to serve the families of the U.K.'s most seriously wounded military personnel. Military families do not pay to stay at any Fisher House.