A beacon of hope for military families opens in the City of Angels!
The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System is the largest in the Department of Veterans Affairs, a sprawling network serving a population of 1.4 million veterans stretching across southern California into southern Nevada. Last year it admitted nearly 8,000 inpatients. Yet, until early February of this year, it had nowhere for families of patients to stay while their loved ones were being treated. The hospital campus neighbors Beverly Hills and Hollywood, and nearby lodging can be prohibitively expensive.
So the opening of Fisher House Foundation’s newest home, right on the hospital grounds, was an eagerly awaited event. “We are so grateful to have this available on our West LA campus for our veterans’ families,” says Donna Beiter, director of the Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
The house was dedicated on February 6th, and the day was a perfect metaphor for what Fisher Houses mean to military families: a steady rain fell all morning, with the skies clearing to radiant sunshine just before the ceremony began. For guests, Fisher Houses are that ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark day. “We are facing life-and-death situations,” says Fisher House guest Cindy Barnett. “Here, we find that little bit of joy we can have.”
Despite the uncertain weather, more than 500 people attended the ribbon-cutting, including CNN’s Larry King, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. Richard Pittman, USMC, wounded marines from Camp Pendleton, and Ken and Tammy Fisher. The 40th Infantry Band set a festive and patriotic tone, and a Marine color guard provided a dignified introduction to the ceremony. This was the 43rd Fisher House to open, and the only one this year. Within the next three years, however, 15 more are slated to open.
Fisher House Chairman Ken Fisher spoke about the enduring need for the houses: “Over the past few years, as we look at the newspapers and watch television, we must be reminded by the reports from Iraq and Afghanistan of the huge cost of freedom—of the debt we owe to the families of the men and women who serve and have served; we must be reminded of how grateful we are for the sacrifices made on our behalf, and of our duty to support those who have paid the price defending our way of life.”
Fisher Houses, he said, are one way to honor that sacrifice. “There can be no better medicine and treatment for our service men, women and veterans than the presence and love of their families,” he said. “This new house will ensure that those who have paid that price will get just that.”