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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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Patriot Day at the South Texas VA

A picture of the front of the Fisher House and a fire truck parked up front

In addition to honoring Veterans, and the men and women of the armed forces, the Fisher House extended an invitation to the San Antonio Fire Department. (VA photos by Steve Goetsch)

By Steve Goetsch
Friday, October 7, 2016

On September 9, patients and staff of the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital gathered along with their families and volunteers for Patriot Day at the South Texas VA Fisher House. You felt Patriotic the minute you stepped onto the grounds of the house, Stars & Stripes, lining the main drive, and an arch of red, white and blue balloons, framing the entrance for guests.
It is a celebration indeed, borne from a tragedy, but celebrating the bravery, heroism and resiliency of all that tragedy produced. There is no better place to hold such an event, than a Fisher House where healing takes place, and the courage and resiliency of families is on display every day. 

Immediately following the attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush proclaimed Friday, September 14, 2001, as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims. It wasn’t long after that when Joint Resolution 71 passed the House by a vote of 407–0, marking the 11th as Patriot Day. At the celebration in San Antonio, the occasion was also used to honor first responders. VA Police and the San Antonio Fire Department came to enjoy the afternoon with the community that they work hard to support.

A group of people including a Veteran and guests of the South Texas VA Fisher House gather for a photo.

The VA Fisher House touts itself as a "home away from home." That is certainly true for its guests. Alina Guzman, (far right), doesn't live locally and stays at the Fisher House when she visits her father.

South Texas Veterans Health Care System Director, Mr. Robert Walton, was working at the Bronx VA in New York City during the attacks on September 11.

“I worked up on the ninth floor and could see the towers,” Walton said. “After that day, all you saw was the smoke billowing up; it was truly a moving event.” With most transportation shut down, he recalled the stream of Veterans that came to the Bronx VA Emergency Room that had walked all the way from lower Manhattan.
 
South Texas VA Fisher House Program Manager, Erik Zielinski, talked about the significance of the day, and the reason why taking time out to be together is so important.“Were gathered here today as a community to remember those who gave all,” Zielinski said. “Today we also stand united as a community and we find strength in one another even during trying times and difficult situations.”

Zielinski talked about how the Fisher House epitomizes that type of patriotism and sense of community through their mission every day. “We here at the Fisher House provide care and compassion to ease family’s burden by providing them a place to stay.”

Two women are holding up a quilt for a Veteran to look at.

Two representatives from the San Antonio Quilters Guild brought several hand-made quilts for inpatients of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

That sense of community extends past the active duty members, Veterans and their families. Patriotism is not exclusive to military Veterans. Hartford Insurance volunteers came out to show their appreciation. They were joined by United Rental staff and Lenny’s subs.

Alongside the Army of volunteers from local companies, you could see the outpouring of support from the American Legion Post 336 that gives so freely of their time to post the colors, or the stirring rendition of the National Anthem by Heather Hatchett and representatives from the San Antonio Quilters Guild, who brought with them several hand-made quilts to personally deliver to wounded warriors staying at the medical center, so you know that patriotism is alive and well in San Antonio.  

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