By Tom Sweeney
It is a simple, straightforward story about wounded veterans and their families. It is about mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children.
When our young men and women voluntarily join our armed forces, each swears to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Brief though it may be, it is a solemn oath. Come hell or high water, young troops pledge their lives and honor to protect us.
Long after the winds of war die away, deep shadows of pain and suffering continue, though hardly noticed by us.
The Greater Cleveland Fisher House will bring light and comfort to the families of those troops whose lives were damaged or irrevocably changed as they lived up to that oath.
Our aim is clear, and vital. A Fisher House will provide comfortable housing at no cost to families whose veterans are in the Stokes VA hospital or as a VA patient being treated by the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth and others.
Fisher Houses are not new; they are gifts from Zachary Fisher, who passed away in June, 1999. At present, 62 Fisher Houses dot the map of America.
Building one in Cleveland will be an honor as well as a fulfillment of our civilian anthem during World War II, “To wait and pray for them ’til they all come home.” Today, as a combat veteran from Vietnam, I add this, ” … but if they are broken, we will fix them as best we can and do it with the help of their families, the Fisher House, and everyone from Greater Cleveland who ‘gives a damn’.”
Our VA hospital ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for its eight “Centers of Excellence,” and is a ‘step-down’ treatment center for patients from Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals. We care for veterans and those veterans need the medicine that only family can give.
The most valuable element in healing is the hug and hand of a parent, a wife, a husband or a child. Families who are part of the treatment have much greater odds of staying intact. It’s the relationship.
Remember, our veterans took an oath and took a chance on us. They bet their lives on us. It is now our turn to volunteer to serve those who volunteered to serve us.
Here’s the good news and the better news. The Fisher House Foundation will evenly split the cost of a Greater Cleveland Fisher House.
The better news is our Fisher House will have 18 suites in the 16,000 square foot home. There is no charge to families. Our Fisher House will cost $6 million to build. We are asked to raise half of that. We are just over the $2 million dollar mark and fully expect to break ground next year.
The Greater Cleveland Fisher House is a fully registered 501c.3 and all contributions are tax deductible by federal law.
You see, the “Call to Duty” is now ours. That call is to every business, corporation, government, veteran organization and every supporter of veterans.
In short, ‘give a damn’ and with the help of their families let’s ‘fix those who are broken’ as best we can.
It is our own oath. Take it. It is a debt that is legitimately owed. When we honor and help our veterans, we bring honor to ourselves.
Tom Sweeney, President
Greater Cleveland Fisher House
Combat Veteran, Vietnam