Newell: A great day for veterans Tuesday as Fisher House breaks ground

New facility marks the beginning of a new era for military families

Newell Normand
November 04, 2019 - 2:44 pm

Fisher House of Southern Louisiana will have a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday. What does this mean for local military and veterans’ families? They’ll be able to stay at Fisher House at no charge as their loved ones receive treatment. Newell invited the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie onto the show Monday morning to discuss.

“This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about, those who have served and are serving in our military,” Newell began. “Mr. Secretary, tell us about this groundbreaking tomorrow!”

“Fisher House will be a home away from home for the families of veterans undergoing serious care on Canal St,” Wilkie said. “It is personal to me. My father, a Saint Aloysius and Loyola graduate, a young Major in 1970, based in Cambodia was really terribly wounded and spent a year in the Army hospital in Hawaii. In those days, we couldn’t see him, because we were living in Metairie at the time. What Fisher House does is allows people like my mother to be able to go where the wounded veteran and stay with them, bring their family, and we take care of your children. It is long past time that we had one in New Orleans, and I’m very, very happy to be breaking ground on this tomorrow.”

Newell added some context to highlight the power of Fisher House with some research - Charity Navigator has been giving Fisher House a four-star rating for years and years, which is the highest rating you can get. They’ve been able to provide nine million days of lodging for family members of those who have served.

“Our men and women in the military will be presented with life-altering challenges unlike those you’d see in any other walk in life,” Newell said. "How has that changed over the years?"

“In my father’s day, in Vietnam, he was lucky to survive his wounds,” Wilkie answered. “Today, our troops are surviving wounds that they never would have survived in Vietnam or even in the first Gulf War. That means they face challenges for the rest of their lives that others before them have never experienced. Medical science is keeping people alive on the battlefield, and we are still catching up to the consequences of that, to make sure our veterans have a healthy and fruitful life after they’ve served in those horrific conditions."

“One of the things I really like about this program is that this is a private-public collaborative. Can you describe what that means?” Newell asked.

“The Fisher Foundation came to the Department of Defense and said, ‘If you give us the land, we will not only build the facility for you, we will make sure those who use it don’t have to spend a dime, and we’ll give you, the VA, access for your medical people and social workers to the families who use Fisher House.' It’s an outstanding example of how government can work. Secondly, New Orleans has effectively ended veterans homelessness. How? VA got into that public-private partnership with groups like Catholic Charities, groups like the Ozanam Inn, and they found homeless veterans that the VA could not. We’re an example of how government can and should work.”

“What a great cause,” Newell finished. “Making it easier for families to spend time with our veterans at a point in time when that need is tantamount to their health recovery.”

Hear the full interview in the audio player below.

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