U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Ken Fisher: Huntington VA Medical Center to have home away from home for military, veterans' families

September 17, 2017
The Herald Dispatch

West Virginia's military men and women and veterans are among the bravest, most patriotic in the world. And so are their families.

That's why we are incredibly honored and excited to announce that Fisher House Foundation is stepping up in a big way to help families of West Virginia military members and veterans during times when they need support the most.

Among its many philanthropic efforts for military members, veterans and their families, Fisher House Foundation has built a network of homes on the grounds of VA medical centers and military bases across the country. These homes provide temporary free lodging so families can be close to their loved ones during a medical crisis. Now, we celebrate the announcement of West Virginia's first-ever Fisher House - right here in Huntington at the VA Medical Center.

Once completed, Huntington's Fisher House will be "a home away from home" for military and veterans' loved ones while they are receiving treatment at the VA Medical Center. This will help ensure these families have a space to rest as comfortably as possible in an environment that feels like a real home - because it is a real home.

It will have a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a spacious dining room, and a living room with a library. It's a place to be close to loved ones receiving the care they need, to keep living life, and to be peaceful, hopeful and prayerful.

Best of all, families do not pay to stay at a Fisher House.

There are 72 Fisher Houses across the country and in Europe, and we are deeply proud and grateful that the Huntington VA Medical Center applied - and was chosen - to be added to this prestigious list, and that West Virginia families will be added to the growing list of 305,000 families served nationwide since the program began in 1990.

The two of us have been honored to work together in recent years on behalf of our veterans, active duty service members and their families. Huntington's Fisher House is the latest in a long line of wonderful achievements.

During the 2013 government shutdown, we were faced with the devastating announcement that the U.S. Department of Defense would be unable to pay bereavement benefits to families of service members who had been killed in combat.

Neither of us could accept that these families would not receive support during their time of unimaginable grief, and especially during a government shutdown. It was unacceptable to us that the families of the men and women who keep our country safe and free would not receive their due benefits during the most difficult time of their lives.

We worked together to find a solution - and we didn't back down. Together with then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, we determined the U.S. Department of Defense can enter into a contract with a nonprofit and be reimbursed at a later time. We worked with the Department of Defense, and Fisher House Foundation agreed to make advance grants to military families that would pay for expenses such as travel and funeral costs.

When it comes to doing the right thing by our veterans, those who are serving our country today and their loved ones, no challenge should be too big. No problem should be insurmountable. No amount of work should be too much.

"To care for him who shall have borne the battle" are among the countless compelling and relevant words spoken by President Abraham Lincoln. We take those words to heart, we carry them with us today and always, and we look forward to the immeasurable ways Huntington's Fisher House will give comfort and respite to the loved ones who live those words every day.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is a Democrat representing West Virginia. Ken Fisher is chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation.