More than 400 guests attended a dedication ceremony for the 39th Fisher House recently built on the grounds of Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Richmond, Va., one of the VA's four Level 1 polytrauma centers.
"It was an opportunity to be able to properly dedicate the home and have all these veterans organizations and families and friends ... come in the home and see exactly what kind of services we're going to be providing these families," said retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne Walker, manager of the new Fisher House.
The 16,800-square-foot facility, which serves as living quarters for family members of active-duty servicemembers and veterans receiving care at the medical center, resembles a large, private home more closely than it does temporary lodging. Each of its 21 rooms -- nine upstairs and 12 on the first level -- has a private bathroom, a 32-inch flat-screen TV and DVD player. The family room has a 50-inch flat-screen TV so those using the Wii videogame system won't miss a single detail. Residents of the house also can cook their own meals in the full kitchen.
"These families are under an enormous amount of stress. To be able to have a place that they can come home and relax and it's not a hotel room, it means everything [to them]," Walker said.
That is precisely why this is the biggest model the Fisher House Foundation builds, said Jim Weiskopf, the Fisher House Foundation's executive vice president of communications. "That's about as large as we'd want to go, because we want them to look and feel like homes and not like hotels, and we're able to do that with our facilities," he said.
For Fisher House, the Richmond facility represents more than just an opportunity to help wounded warriors and their families. It's a promised kept.
"There are four Level 1 polytrauma centers in the VA," Weiskopf said. "Building at Richmond fulfills our pledge to the VA to get a Fisher House at all of the Level 1 polytrauma centers."
The VA's three other Level 1 polytrauma centers are in Palo Alto, Calif.; Minneapolis; and Tampa, Fla.
The first families will begin moving into the new Richmond facility July 21.
The Fisher House Foundation is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.