By Caitlin Myers
Flat-screen TVs, granite countertops and modern d�cor fill the new North Texas Fisher House, a 16,800-square-foot hotel of sorts that cost $4.6 million to build, furnish and landscape.
The plush accommodations won't cost guests a dime, though. And those guests are not coming for a vacation. They'll be in Dallas to visit wounded family members fresh from the battlefield and hospitalized at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, across the street at 4500 S. Lancaster Road.
More than 500 veterans, community leaders and others gathered Thursday to dedicate the home - the sixth of its kind in Texas. After a few finishing touches, it will open to guests in about a month.
The 21-bedroom Fisher House replaces inadequate facilities for visiting family members at the VA Medical Center.
"It was nothing more than a couple rooms on the ninth floor. Not at all what these families deserve," said Paul Pfrommer of Dallas, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.
Rundown recovery quarters are nothing new to war veterans and their families. Since The Washington Post uncovered embarrassing conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in 2007, organizations such as the Fisher House Foundation - established in 1990 by New York real estate magnate Zachary Fisher and his wife, Elizabeth - have stepped up efforts to improve families' accommodations.
There are 42 Fisher Houses nationwide, operated on military bases and at VA medical centers. They have saved veterans and their families more than $100 million in travel and housing costs, said Kenneth Fisher, chairman and CEO of the foundation and the grandnephew of the program's founder.
Each house includes a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a dining room, a living room with a library, and toys for children.
When Plano resident Wes Geary came home from Vietnam wounded 27 years ago, there was no place like the Fisher House for him and his family. "Nobody cared about us soldiers when we got home," he said. "This place really shows the support of the American public now."
The home is open to both family members and veterans coming for extended treatment at the VA hospital.
"This house is about combining the power of modern medicine and the power of companionship," said Joseph Dalpiaz, director of the VA North Texas Health Care System.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski