FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Jan. 30, 2007) - Thanks to the generosity of 600,000 Americans, wounded warriors now have a $50 million state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility.
The Center for the Intrepid, designed for servicemembers wounded in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, opened here yesterday along with two new Fisher Houses during a ceremony that included speeches from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey. R. James Nicholson, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs also spoke at the ceremony.
"There are those who speak about (wounded warriors) today - 'He lost an arm. He lost a leg. She lost her sight.' I object," Pace told the the injured troops in attendance. "You gave an arm, you gave a leg, you gave your sight as gifts to your nation that we might live in freedom."
The $50 million center was built entirely from private funds through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which provides assistance to the nation's military heroes injured in the performance of duty and their families.
"This is a red-letter day for this country and for the 600,000 Americans who have contributed a dollar, some more than a million dollars, to make sure our young men and women who have given so much to this country are aware the American people care about them," said Arnold Fisher, chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. "They are our national treasure."
Both the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation, which makes the Fisher Houses possible, are members of the Defense Department's America Supports You program. The program works to highlight ways in which Americans support U.S. troops, veterans and their families.
Dozens of wounded warriors joined more than 3,000 guests at the grand opening. The guest list included Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain, country group Big & Rich, Rosie O'Donnell, Michelle Pfeiffer, producer David E. Kelley and top military leaders from all branches of service. Rock music star John Mellencamp performed during the ceremony.
Although the audience was packed with the top military leaders and Hollywood celebrities, the wounded warriors received the longest round of applause, along with a standing ovation.
"It's amazing, truly amazing. It really shows the American people care," said wounded warrior Staff Sgt. Daniel Barnes, a bilateral amputee.
The four-story, 60,000-square-foot center was designed for wounded warriors like Barnes. Equipped with the latest rehabilitation technology, it is a potential athlete's dream. The facility includes an indoor running track, firing range, pool, two-story climbing wall, prosthetic center and a computer assisted rehabilitation environment known as CAREN.
The environment comprises a dome with a 4-meter platform and screen, simulating everything from a city sidewalk to a day on the lake so patients can improve their gait and balancing skills. The unit is one of nine in the world, and it is the only one in the United States.
"What you see before you is a monument built by contributions by 600,000 Americans," Fisher said. "This is a monument to not only the men and women and their families who will come here, but a monument to the generosity of our citizens and their love for those who serve."
The center will initially cater to amputees and burn patients injured in the global war on terrorism, but is hoped to expand to encompass retirees, family members and veterans.
"This is my son's (Ken Fisher) and my commitment, and our mission," Fisher said. "We'll continue this as long as it's necessary. Our only wish is that a place like this someday, it will become a garage."
The two new Fisher Houses bring the on-post total to four. Fisher Houses serve as a home away from home for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and Veterans Affairs medical centers.
The 21-room homes are built in the newer Fisher House style, with a sprawling 16,800 square feet, as opposed to 5,000-plus square feet. Families will be able to live in comfort and style as they care for their loved ones at BAMC in homes that more closely resemble a Malibu mansion than temporary military housing. Each home has a kitchen even Martha Stewart would love, a formal dining room, several sitting rooms and elegant bedrooms equipped with DVD/VCR systems and flat screen TVs.
"What a privilege it is to render assistance to military families," said Ken Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation.
Pace echoed the sentiment. "Thank you to the families - families of the fallen, families of the wounded; you sacrifice in ways that people who have not walked in your shoes can only imagine. When we are wounded, you are there to help put us back together. Those of you who are family members of fallen and of wounded have served this country as well as anyone who has ever worn the uniform."
The facility is named after the aircraft carrier Intrepid.