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Families who come to Dover Air Force Base, Del., to witness the return of the remains of their loved ones will soon be able to stay for free in the first Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, scheduled to be dedicated at Dover on Wednesday.
The 8,462-square-foot house has nine suites for families that include private, handicapped-accessible bathrooms and common areas that include a multi-cooking station kitchen, large communal dining and family rooms. It adjoins a 1,714-square-foot Meditation Pavilion that provides a quiet place for families to gather and reflect during their stay.
Both facilities were built with private donations to the Fisher House Foundation, and are being given to the Air Force to operate.
The Dover house becomes the 50th Fisher House to open since the program was founded in 1990 by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher. The other 49 "comfort homes" are located near military or Veterans Affairs Department medical facilities, for families of wounded, ill or injured service members and other military or veteran patients receiving care.
In December, three additional Fisher Houses will be dedicated at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., boosting the capacity from 15 families at the current two houses there, to 68 families.
"With the recognition that Walter Reed is scheduled to close in less than a year, we wanted to have the houses open before the transfer," said David Coker, president of Fisher House Foundation.
Bethesda is also where the first house built under the Fisher House program opened in 1991. Since then, 130,000 families have stayed at one or more Fisher Houses, at a cost savings to them of more than $150 million, considering average hotel rates.
Opening these houses "is a heck of a way to celebrate our 20th anniversary," Coker said. "Instead of throwing a party, what better way than to celebrate these facilities that will have an impact on so many lives."