Currently, 8,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are traveling to the Milwaukee VA Medical Center for treatment of their wounds and injuries. Unfortunately, they have had to arrange for their overnight stays at area hotels or with friends and family during their course of treatment. In some cases they stayed in their cars.
The need for visiting accommodations was so great that the Milwaukee Fisher House is one of the largest built in the United States, allowing veterans and their families living beyond 50-miles from the Milwaukee VA Hospital to stay overnight at no cost at Fisher House Wisconsin. Milwaukee's Fisher House is often over booked with all sixteen suites occupied. Overflow patients and their families then stay at the Embassy Suites Hotel complements of the Fisher House Foundation.
On December 9, 2017, some of us at Greendale American Legion Post 416 had a chance to visit the patients currently hospitalized in the Spinal Injury Unit. The unit occupies a separate building from the main hospital, but is in walking distance. We then moved on to visit the Fisher House on the same grounds. For privacy reasons, we were not able to take pictures except this one inside the Spinal Injury Unit.
The Spinal Injury Unit is a very quiet and modern facility. The staff practically tip toes about so as not to create any noise. They speak in a soft, almost whispering voice. It was like trying not to wake up a sleeping baby. But all that was about to change. We, the friendliest and most exuberant veterans from the greatest American Legion Post around, arrived! And when we did, the entire atmosphere transformed into excitement. As a group we went visiting from room to room and the patients suddenly came alive. In fact, they were overjoyed with happiness to see us. If they could, they would have gotten up and danced about with joy. Instead though, we did note that each of them was confined to their bed with an abundance of equipment and apparatus set up. That didn't stop us from our mission though. We were there to liven the place up.
Some of the patients had recently undergone surgeries in hopes of an improvement while others were just trying to maintain. They all had something painfully wrong with their one time healthy bodies. One thing for certain; each was going to spend their Christmas here and as we visited each of them, we were always welcomed. The patients were delighted even though some of them could not move. One of our first questions to them was, in which branch of service did they serve. As they answered, some of us cheered while others booed. (You had to be there for this. The patients laughed!). Something told us we were the first visitors and probably "big laugh" they had in a long time. We shared stories as only veterans can do and gave them a voucher to use at the canteen (the staff goes on their behalf). We gave them and the staff a heartfelt thanks for their service.
There were some patients who could not have visitors. Nurses and doctors worked with them constantly and no one who might spread germs could come in. I could see one of the patients from outside his room and, by the way he looked, I could tell he had a long road ahead of him before he would ever be able to even stand. I felt bad for him and I could feel a bit of a pang inside with the thought that any one of us could be him. We wished our new veteran friends a very Merry Christmas.
Onward to the Fisher House
After visiting the Spinal Injury Unit, we went on to the Fisher House. Looking at its size from the outside is deceiving. We were awed by the beauty inside and what's more, the kitchen was to die for. I thought, wow, could we use a Christmas cookie-making area like this at home. Literally, it had several refrigerators, a huge island with black marble top and storage cabinets, and plenty of cooking equipment just calling out for us to use. So on with the show. Here are some photos of our very own Milwaukee Fisher House. If you've never seen this place before, get ready for some surprises. Enjoy!
on the house!
Notice there are no prices shown. That's because there is no charge.
And now for the kitchen...Welcome!
Each bedroom comes with its own master bath. It's built and equipped to accommodate those with handicaps.
Guests are given a plush bath robe for their showering convenience. By the way, notice the Fisher House emblem embroidered on the chest. True class!
Home Sweet Home. This suite is so inviting, especially to those in need of some good rest after sometimes an emotional day. There are 16 suites in this home.
The sleeping accommodations truly pass inspection.
Here I'm standing at the half way point of the hall leading to some of the suites on the first floor. There are suites on the second floor as well. People can use the steps or elevator to get to them.
I'm standing in the same spot, but did an about-face and snapped this picture. The hallway extends in both directions. It is extremely wide, making it easy to accommodate two-way traffic including wheelchairs.This home was designed to serve a wonderful purpose and a fine job it does.
This is a side view of the dining room. It seats up to thirty people.
This plaque is mounted just outside the front door. There are 72 Fisher Houses in the United States of which this is one of them.
A picture of Zachary and Elizabeth hangs on the dining room wall inside.
The guests are greeted by this display as they enter the home.
Here we are in the foyer. Notice the beautiful stairway behind us. There is, of course, an elevator too!
Looking at the foyer from the front door. Information awaits anyone who is a new guest.
This passage way appears on the opposite side of the foyer. Notice he elevator inside. This place is really equipped.
Here is the living room as you walk in from the foyer. It is inviting for anyone who wants to come in and relax. Tea anyone?
This room, complete with a Christmas tree, is the TV room. On Christmas Day, each family will receive a gift waiting for them from under the tree.
Our tour guide and house manager, Jennifer, shows us a small library area that sits not far from the TV-watching area. Guests are allowed to take a book and keep it.
We were amazed and intrigued by the huge gold looking mirrors on the walls at each end of the hall. I just had to get a closer shot with a man there help illustrate how large the mirrors are.
Guests are invited to make use of the kitchen facilities when ever they want. They are provided with their own individual food storage cabinets that lock and they can use a refrigerator.
Here is the house manager and tour guide, Jennifer. She is showing us some of the house's private cupboards. The guest cabinets are situated much lower and built into the island making it easier to reach inside. The designers of this house thought of everything and every one.
One of the well-stocked refrigerators.
Wash machines and dryers are available guests for free so that they don't have to rely on an outside laundry. Some residents may stay for weeks and sooner or later will need extra amenities like this.
Here's Harry Koroghlanian, our Past Chaplain at Post 416, happily bidding us "goodbye" following such a wonderful tour. Come on, Harry. Let's go home.
About the Fisher House in Milwaukee
A Short Commentary About the Fisher House: When it comes to showing love and appreciation to others, it's hard to find a more deserving people than the heroes and their families who have sacrificed so much for us. Few individuals make the life-changing decisions they did that affect so many others, both here and around the world. Because of these heroes, we continue to enjoy our freedom and the many blessings we receive. For that, we extend our greatest thanks and vow from the bottom of our heart to find ways to return the favor. Thank you for serving and may God bless you.
- Bob Naffier -
Dec 9, 2017 - VA Hospital Spinal
Front row: left to right: Kathy Zagar, Bob Roark, Harry Koroghlanian
Rear row: left to right: Jim Cook, Tim Baranzyk, Dan Baker, Stan Pinkowski, Bob Vanselow, Bob Naffier
Here we are at the VA Hospital Spinal Injury Unit
The kitchen has a pass-through to the TV room.