First Nebraska Fisher House to Be Built in Omaha
Representatives from Fisher House Foundation and the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System joined with U.S. Congressional leaders, local veterans and military families yesterday as they broke ground on a new Fisher House on VA’s Omaha campus.
A Fisher House creates an instant community for its residents, united by their common mission of supporting a sick or injured loved one, but also will provide guests with a secure and private refuge after a long day at the hospital to rest and recharge. It is the first of its kind in Nebraska.
This 16-suite, 14,000+ square-foot “home away from home” will join 84 other Fisher Houses operating in the United States and Europe. Each bedroom suite will be equipped with a private, handicapped-accessible bathroom. Common areas will include a spacious kitchen, large communal living, dining and family rooms, laundry room and patio.
According to David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation, the Omaha Fisher House will provide military and veterans’ families “a home away from home” as they support their loved one receiving care at the Omaha VA Medical Center. He added that the Omaha Fisher House will serve as a tangible symbol of the community’s support.
“We need to remember that every family member has their own remarkable story,” Coker told a crowd of more than 200 that included military servicemembers, veteran support organization members, veterans and members of VA staff. “We also need to remember that behind every service member and veteran is a family that bears a burden and makes a sacrifice that so many in this country have no concept of.”
When completed, Coker said, “We pledge to give our best because that is what our nation’s military and veterans’ families deserve.”
Barbara Yllescas Vorthman, vice president of Nebraska Gold Star Mothers, stayed in Fisher House facilities in Landstuhl, Germany, and Washington, D.C., after her son, Capt. Rob Yllescas was wounded while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. Captain Yllescas died approximately a month later. His mother said the comfort and support she received while staying at Fisher Houses stays with her to this day. It’s why she has become such an advocate for the Fisher House program.
“We are so excited to have a Fisher House here in Omaha… our wounded need to be close to their families to speed the healing process,” Yllescas Vorthman said. “God bless the Fisher House Foundation and all of the hardworking people who make this possible. We love you.”
Retired U.S. Army Col. Tom Brewer echoed those comments. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Nebraska Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserves, Brewer served multiple tours in Afghanistan and was wounded several times during separate incidents. He said the work the Fisher House staff do in supporting the families of wounded American service members and veterans cannot be overstated.
“As you think about what this building means and what they do with the Fisher Houses around the world, they’re changing lives,” said Brewer, who is now a Nebraska State Senator and represents the largest state legislative district in northwestern and northcentral Nebraska. “Getting back with your family and knowing that life is going to be okay, that you’re going to work through it, is invaluable.
“To all of the individuals who have come together – donors and those who helped bring them together – you’ve done a special thing,” Brewer added. “You may never get the chance to shake the hands or see the smiles, but you did it… that will be special for Omaha and it will be remembered by the families.”
Officials believe the Fisher House will serve hundreds of veterans’ families from across Nebraska and Western Iowa on a yearly basis. That is a particularly important benefit for the region’s rural veterans and their families, who often have had to face increased financial burdens due to the distances they have to travel to receive care from the Omaha VA hospital. U.S. Senator Deb Fischer said this fact alone makes the Fisher House a much-needed addition to the Omaha VA campus. She lauded the efforts of the many individuals involved in making what was once a dream a reality.
“Because of the hard work of many of you in the audience today, we are looking at a Fisher House in Nebraska – a home away from home – so that the families and the caregivers can be closer to their Veterans and be near them when it is most needed to provide that caring and that support while they receive treatment that they need at this really wonderful facility,” Fischer said.
“We all know how important it is to have family nearby, to have caregivers nearby,” Fischer added. “That’s why the Fisher House exists.”
U.S. Representative Don Bacon, who represents Nebraska’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District, agreed as he borrowed a quote from Yllescas Vorthman who had said a day earlier that having a Fisher House in Omaha was an answer to a prayer.
“Indeed, it is,” said Bacon, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general who saw first-hand the amazing work Fisher House Foundation does while serving as a commander at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. “When you look at all the Fisher Houses throughout our country and overseas, it’s literally been an answer to hundreds of thousands of families who needed an oasis in a time of trouble.”
B. Don Burman, director of the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, said the Fisher House will serve an important need for veterans and their families from throughout the Nebraska and Western Iowa region, both now and in the future.
“We’re building it for (our current military service members) because one day they are going to need these services. We’re building it for our Veterans Service Organizations who represent veterans across Nebraska and Western Iowa,” Burman said. “We’re doing it for families who need to be able to be with their loved ones and give them support during a very trying time, be it surgery, physical therapy or whatever it might be. We’re doing it for those folks.”
The house is expected to be completed sometime in late 2020. When completed, the Fisher House will be gifted to VA and will become a Federal building.