More than 350 Veterans, employees, volunteers and VIPs gathered to celebrate the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new Defenders Lodge - a $12.5 million facility that is being donated to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System by the Pentagon Federal Credit (PenFed) Foundation.
"I am awed by the individual and collective levels of generosity that is funding and building this facility," said Secretary of VA Eric Shinseki, the principal speaker at the event. "Truly, the PenFed Foundation's compassion is an extraordinary example of taking our service members and Veteran warriors in your arms while they receive VA care and treatment - providing a place of respite for those in need."
Each month, more than 1,000 Veterans travel long distances to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System for medical care and stay overnight at the hospital's current "Hometel" -- a place where they can stay free of charge while receiving chemotherapy, rehabilitation, or outpatient procedures.
Many Veterans would tell you that without such a facility, they couldn't afford to come to the VA at Palo Alto, or would have to sleep in their cars if they did. Currently, the Hometel is full at least three days a week and frequently must turn Veterans away. The total number of Veterans on the wait list for 2011 has already reached 2,560, with only about half being placed in a bed.
"The new Defenders Lodge will be nearly twice the size of the Hometel. It will be a high-quality, warm and inviting environment, befitting our Nation's heroes, also free-of-cost," said Christopher Flynn, PenFed Foundation president. "It will have 52 suites, providing up to 104 queen-size beds in a 34,076 sq.ft. building. The lodge will be a big upgrade from the 30-year-old Hometel, with wireless Internet service, upgraded security and safety, 100% ADA compliant, with accommodations for spouses and caregivers."
In addition to Secretary Shinseki, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman Mike Honda, the Secretary of the California Department of VA, Peter Gravett, and the Mayor of Palo Alto, Sid Espinosa, all attended the celebration, which included recognition of 13 POWs who attended the celebration as part of POW/MIA Day, Sept. 16th.
"From our greatest to our latest generations, the PenFed's compassion affirms to those who have protected and defended America that their contributions to our nation are remembered and appreciated - and that their fellow citizens care deeply about them," said Secretary Shinseki.
More information about the Defenders Lodge is available on our website.