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Fisher Houses allow military families to be together "when they need each other the most," said first lady Michelle Obama, who participated in the ribbon-cutting for three more Fisher Houses at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center on Dec. 2.
The three houses increase the capacity from 15 families to 68 at Bethesda in preparation for the Defense Department's shifting of patients from Walter Reed Army Medical Center under base realignment actions. There are now five Fisher Houses at Bethesda, all near each other.
About a dozen families have moved into one of the houses, said David Coker, president of Fisher House Foundation. The other two houses are ready to be turned over to the Navy.
The foundation builds and outfits the houses, then turns them over to the military services or the Veterans Affairs Department to operate. These three houses bring the total number of Fisher Houses to 53.
Since the first Fisher House was opened at Bethesda nearly 20 years ago, more than 130,000 families have been served, with nearly 3 million days of lodging, saving them an estimated $100 million, Obama said in her speech at the ceremony.
The Fisher Houses allow families "to leave behind their worries about costs and logistics and focus on what matters most — helping their loved ones heal."
She said the Fisher Houses "remind us of a simple truth: that when our men and women in uniform are called to serve, their families serve, too. Their sacrifice is their families' sacrifice, as well. And that's particularly true in times of crisis when our service members and veterans are sick or wounded are struggling to get well again."
The late Zachary Fisher and his wife Elizabeth had never served in the military when they founded the Fisher House organization two decades ago, Obama said. "But they loved their country, they had the highest respect and appreciation for those who served it, and they spent their lives showing their gratitude in every way they could," she said.
"They remind us that even if we're not part of a military family, we're all a part of the American family, and every single one of us, every single one of us has an obligation to support the men and women who protect us, and the families who love them."