First Lady Dedicates New Fisher House at Bethesda
(December 6, 2010)
|WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 – When servicemembers travel the
road to medical recovery, families often must travel that
road with them, First Lady Michelle Obama said today at the
opening of a new Fisher House at the National Naval Medical
BETHESDA, Md. (Dec. 2, 2010) First lady Michelle Obama and Fisher House Foundation Chairman Ken Fisher cut a ribbon during a dedication ceremony for the first of three new Fisher Houses at the National Naval Medical Center. The new houses will be in addition to the two houses currently on campus. (U.S. Navy photo by Cat DeBinder)
"When the nation's servicemen and women are called to serve, their families
serve, too," Obama said. "Their sacrifice is their families' sacrifice,
particularly when our servicemembers or veterans are sick, wounded and are
struggling to get well again."
The concept of the Fisher House began 20 years ago by the parents of Zachary
Fisher, who saw the need to provide a home so families could join their
hospitalized and recovering soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines without the
burden of hotel expenses and other obstacles. Since the first Fisher House was
built on the expansive grounds of the medical center here, more than 130,000
families have been served and nearly 3 million days of lodging have saved family
members nearly $100 million, the first lady said.
But those numbers don't even begin to capture the impact the
Fisher Houses have had, she said.
"The late nights families have spent in those kitchens
laughing, crying and praying together, the lifelong
friendships they've maintained, and the gratitude and relief
they feel knowing that wherever they are, they'll have a
place to call home" are key in the success of Fisher House,
"We know the sacrifices these folks are making,” she added,
“putting their careers on hold, putting their own dreams
aside and often working around the clock to care for those
Noting that she has visited many Fisher Houses, Obama called
the servicemembers and family members she has met during
those visits "simply extraordinary.”
"No matter how badly they've been wounded, no matter how
much pain they're in, they've refused to scale back their
dreams," she said. "They're making plans. They're
reimagining their futures. They tell me they're not just
going to walk, but they're going to run again. They're going
to run a marathon."
The first lady recalled Navy SEAL Lt. Jason "Jay" Redman,
who was shot eight times while serving in Iraq and
subsequently went through dozens of surgeries, 1,200
stitches and 15 skin grafts. He spent 73 days recovering at
Fisher House, and posted a note to greet his hospital room
visitors. When he left, Obama said, he donated his note,
"To all who enter here: If you're coming into this room with
sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The
wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for
people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply
love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery.
What is full? That is the absolute, utmost that my body has
the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20
percent further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you
are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism and intense
rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, go
"As we open this house today," the first lady said, "that is
the spirit we honor -- the spirit of resilience and healing,
that spirit of patriotism and service."
It was that same spirit, she said, that moved Zachary
Fisher's family to start Fisher House, even though neither
of his parents ever served in the military.
The first lady noted President Barack Obama passed
legislation earlier this year to provide assistance for
wounded warrior care providers.
"This legislation is to make their jobs just a little bit
easier," she said, by providing financial assistance,
counseling, health insurance and respite care to those who
need it most.
"This is the least we can do for these families," she said.
"It is the least we can do for the men and women who have
sacrificed so much to keep us safe."
Obama told the small group of dignitaries, families and
reporters that every American has an obligation to support
hospitalized and recovering servicemembers.
"During this holiday season, especially, I hope that we all
recommit ourselves to that critically important work," she
Each Fisher House accommodates 60 families, a White House
source said. Two Fisher Houses at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center in Washington, D.C., are scheduled to close next year
when the hospital is relocated to the Bethesda campus,
combining the military medical services into the Walter Reed
National Military Medical Center.
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
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