Veteran and military spouse Cora Pitts shared her Fisher House story in a speech at the Ann Arbor, Michigan Fisher House dedication last year. Here are her remarks and her story in her own words.
The Gift that Says You Are Not Forgotten: The Fisher House
As a veteran, wife of a veteran, mother of two veterans, aunt, cousin, and niece of veterans over many generations, I am honored to have the opportunity to speak about what the Fisher House means to veterans and their families.
I, along with the many other veterans and their families, am thankful for the gift of the Fisher House. It’s not just a place to stay. For everyone that experiences it, and it is an experience, it becomes a community.
I and my husband, Hurbert, like so many other veterans, didn’t know about Fisher House, nor about veterans’ medical benefits. Our medical benefits ended when my husband’s plant closed. We paid for doctor visits and medicine from my part-time job and handyman work he did. A routine blood test led to other tests, and we got the news. It was kidney cancer. How would we pay?
A friend told us about the VA clinic in our town, and to our amazement, we qualified for medical care. His kidney was removed, but an expected three-day hospital stay became a ten. With help from my children and in-laws, I stayed near my husband helping him ask and answer questions because he was challenged with a hearing deficit from guarding jet planes.
Ten years later another routine test showed a problem. Two areas on his one remaining kidney needed to be biopsied. It was 2020, the height of the COVID scare, and no one could go into the hospital. I rented a room close by with my daughter and her husband, and we waited for news. When the call came, I could hear my husband say to the nurse that we were staying in a motel room. She told him about the Fisher House and put into action our first stay.
We checked into the Fisher House Sunday, January 19, the day before his surgery. I settled in for a five-day stay, ten at the most. The surgery was successful, his kidney was preserved and functioned, but a week later he started having complications. Tests, procedure, conferences, infusions, calls in the middle of the night from doctors and nurses… ten days became twenty, twenty became thirty. The Fisher House extended my stay, and I didn’t have to move. The ten-day stay became nearly 40 days. I can’t imagine any family being able to afford the cost of a stay in downtown Ann Arbor near the hospital for that length of time.
The cost savings were one great value, but the greater treasure was the connections, the community. At the Fisher House I was given a beautiful room and more. There was a kitchen, always my favorite room of a house, a living room, a family room, and library. There was a fully equipped and stocked laundry room. There was food and drink in the fully stocked kitchen. Here, there was a sense of home. But most of all in these community areas there were people, whether staff or other guests, who shared victories, sorrow, struggles, prayers, meals, and stories. There were shared meals and helping hands. There were smiles and tears, understanding, and encouragement. Fisher House housed officers and enlisted, people from many communities, backgrounds, and experiences. Here in the Fisher House, there was commonality, compassion, and care.
Fisher House says thank you for your service in a way that no medal or citation could say to all who served and were prepared to give their all. Some of us were drafted and some volunteered, but we all held up our hands and stepped up to the plate to serve our country. In this country we have different opinions and views, and in this country, we can have this; this is the reason that we served. I’ve been in countries where this is not true. So, I say I’m grateful for the honor and opportunity I was given to serve, and I say thank you to Fisher House for saying to us, veterans, and family “Thank you for your service” and “Welcome home.”