On Dec. 9, in a very moving and uplifting event, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fisher House took place. There was a large audience, many of whom had made a financial contribution to this new facility.
Within 18 months, this new home away from home, with 20 well-appointed suites, will be built in an ideal location on Wrightsboro Road. Since the Fisher House Foundation is in charge of the construction, there will be no bureaucratic barriers to overcome. The contractor already is hard at work, and this $6 million facility should be up and running by early spring 2011.
FAMILIES OF wounded warriors and veterans who are undergoing in-patient care will stay for free. When the facility is completed, the VA will pay all operations and maintenance expenses. Once more, a big thank-you to the thousands who gave more than $1.8 million and to the Fisher Foundation, which contributed more than $4 million.
But there is other good news. Recently a number of wounded warriors who had been retired from the military but could not find jobs were put to work on an important national "curation project."
The Iraq and Afghanistan returnees who work in this program learn job skills such as document scanning and information management, high-resolution photography and inventory tracking. For the first time, our nation's artifacts, many of them come from American Indian burial grounds, are being photographed, and the related records scanned to digital files.
All of this work is being done in Augusta by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. They are deeply appreciative of the opportunity work together, to learn new skills and to contribute to our understanding of our American heritage.
This is a collaboration among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Army's Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Gordon, the Charlie Norwood Veterans Administration Medical Center, the Department of Labor and the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project. This unique employment and training program is a $1.8 million investment in our community, and is further proof that Augusta is becoming a model for innovative programs that benefit our nation's heroes.
There are a number of other initiatives that have been taken to help our wounded warriors and veterans. Recently, E-Z-Go donated a golf car to be used in a raffle to raise money to help our veterans. The goal was to raise $10,000. The result was much better than that: $36,000 was raised.
IN ADDITION, E-Z-Go, on a regular basis, plays host to wounded warriors for lunch and a tour of the golf car production line. These soldiers have a chance to examine how a manufacturing production line works. This information may be useful for those who will be leaving the military and looking for good jobs.
Here is another example. Augusta Iron and Steel Works recently hired a wounded warrior who had been injured in his back and arm in combat in Iraq. With a strong work ethic and a great attitude, he is doing very well in his new job.
I would like to encourage all companies, as the economy improves and they start to hire new employees to give full consideration to these fine veterans from all our military services.
How can you as individuals assist our wounded warriors? Here are two suggestions:
- Pull out your checkbook and write a check to the Fort Gordon Fisher House. Send it to Fort Gordon Fisher House, Building 260, Fisher House Road, Fort Gordon, GA 30905. It should be noted that unlike the Fisher House next to the VA, the Fort Gordon Fisher House needs financial support from the community every year. Since the Fort Gordon Fisher House is scheduled for a major renovation in 2010, your check will be especially helpful.
- Donate to "Hope for Warriors" -- the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org -- or to "Operation Homefront" -- the Web site is www.operationhomefront.net. Both of these organizations give direct support to wounded warriors.
THOSE WHO WANT to learn more about how to help our wounded warriors, and those with good ideas that have not yet been implemented, should feel free to contact Laurie Ott. Her e-mail address is email@example.com. This energetic, innovative and caring person, who already has accomplished so much, is looking for ideas and assistance as she continues to devote her life to helping our wounded warriors.
One final point about giving: Recent research demonstrates that the people who live the longest, happiest and most fulfilling lives are those who give every day. They give of their time, their talent or their treasure, and they do it joyously. I encourage everyone to dig deep and often to support the causes that are near and dear to their hearts.
(The writer, a retired U.S. Army major general, assisted in the capital campaigns of the Fisher House, the Kroc Center and the Saint Paul's Church upper rooms. He lives in Augusta.)