ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two events were held in Anchorage Saturday to celebrate Armed Forces Day, with hundreds of people coming together to hail the end of one project and the start of another.
Both the ribbon-cutting celebration for the new Veterans Administration clinic in Muldoon and the groundbreaking for a new Fisher House are projects that many say are important to give back to those who served.
More than 100 people gathered to show their support for a project they say is much-needed in Alaska.
"These wounded warriors came back from combat injuries recently," said Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, commander of Alaskan Command. "They could not have done this without a Fisher House."
The new Fisher House will serve as a home away from home for families of injured soldiers and veterans who are receiving medical care.
"When they come to Alaska, they have nowhere to stay when they're in the hospital," said Fisher House of Alaska President Terry Parks. "So this will serve as a hotel, if you will, for them for as many days as they need -- at no cost to them."
There are a total of 45 Fisher Houses spread across the nation, with one in Germany, but the group says this will be the first one in the Pacific region -- and it will be built on Elmendorf Air Force Base.
"There's a huge demand for it," Parks said. "Most people don't understand we have 115,000 people who would be eligible to use the Fisher House in Alaska."
The planned two-story, 16,000-square-foot facility is estimated to cost $6.5 million. The funds have yet to be raised but organizers are off to a good start, with Lithia Chrysler Dodge announcing a $5,000 donation up front and the Fisher House Foundation offering a 20 percent match of any community donations up to $250,000.
The facility will be located between the hospital and the new VA outpatient clinic.
The groundbreaking of the soil marked the start to a journey ahead -- and an hour later, just next door, a crowd of leaders and lawmakers celebrated the completion of the VA clinic.
Ceremonies included a purification song and dance by the Kicaput Singers and Dancers and the performance of the national anthem, commemorating the opening of a facility that will serve thousands of Alaskans.
"We've added some new services, we've enhanced our medical service," said Alaska VA Healthcare Director Alex Spector. "We have increased primary care for our veterans, physical therapy, ophthalmology, a number of new operating rooms for surgeries -- so it's just a great increase and will help the veterans of Alaska."
Organizers say both projects will work side-by-side to give back to the many who have served our nation in uniform.
If everything goes as planned, construction on the Fisher House should be completed sometime next summer.
Contact Christine Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org