Bulldozers have begun moving earth to build a free lodging facility for families of sick or injured veterans next to the VA Medical Center in Omaha.
A formal groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday for the 15,000-square-foot Fisher House, though site work actually began in late July. The $8 million facility will include 16 hotel-style suites. Families can stay there without cost while a veteran receives care through the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System. It’s the first of its kind in Nebraska.
“If the veteran is in the hospital, the family can stay, too,” said Julie Rickert, associate director of operations for VA Nebraska-Western Iowa.
Barb Yllescas-Vorthmann of Treynor, Iowa, stayed in Fisher House facilities at Landstuhl, Germany, and in Washington, D.C., for more than a month after her son, Capt. Rob Yllescas, was badly wounded in combat in Afghanistan on Oct. 28, 2008, and died a month later.
“They were a blessing in one of the darkest times in my life,” said Yllescas-Vorthmann, vice president of the Nebraska Gold Star Mothers chapter, which also includes western Iowa.
She will be among the speakers at Wednesday’s ceremony, along with Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer and Rep. Don Bacon, State Sen. Tom Brewer, VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Director B. Don Burman, and Fisher House Foundation President David Coker.
There are more than 80 Fisher Houses at military and veterans hospitals around the United States, as well as two in Europe. The program was begun in 1990 by Zachary Fisher, a New York real estate developer and philanthropist who became involved in causes to support military veterans as well as first responders.
In addition to large hotel-type suites, Fisher Houses have a common kitchen/dining area where families get to know one another, as well as laundry facilities.
Sign up for World-Herald news alerts
Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.
“It’s just like being at home. In fact, a lot of us agreed it was better than home,” Yllescas-Vorthmann said. She said the staff at the homes was compassionate and helpful, and the families who stayed there bonded and supported one another through terrible times.
The Omaha facility is being built near the corner of 42nd Street and Woolworth Avenue, on land formerly occupied by a gym and some temporary buildings. It is funded by the Fisher House Foundation with local donations and will be given to the VA when complete to operate as a federal building. It is expected to open in late 2020.
“This is an answer to a prayer,” Yllescas-Vorthmann said.
1 of 42
1954 total eclipse left many Omahans disappointed; farther north came 'awe-inspiring' memories. Read more
A century ago, orphan trains promised a new life; 4,000 children were placed in Nebraska. Read more
Abbott Drive, downtown Omaha's link to Eppley Airfield, owes its name to a wealthy Sand Hills rancher. Read more
Art made them famous. Murder shaped their lives. A hotel in Nebraska links their pasts. Read more
Back in the day, driving from Omaha to Norfolk became a 3-day adventure. Read more
Blizzard of 1888 ravaged the Plains with hurricane-like winds, deadly cold. Read more
Creighton's 56-inning outing, from dusk to dawn, was longest night in NCAA softball history. Read more
Decades ago, ‘Boys Town’ — the movie and its stars — captivated locals far from Hollywood. Read more
A century removed from its first official contest, Creighton is among the most viable — and visible — programs in the rugged, basketball-fueled Big East. It seems like all of this unfolded overnight. It didn’t. We examined the characters and events that paved the way for a cozy, small-school program to grow into a big-time hoops machine. Read more
Early Husker fans got 'live' game coverage on the Grid-O-Graph – a miracle of modern technology. Read more
The night George Wallace came to Omaha, and the 1968 race riot began. Read more
For Nebraska priest, bodybuilding was 'the best habit I ever had, except for going to church.' Read more
Frank Kawa, the force behind South Omaha landmark Johnny’s Cafe, was once known as 'the beer baron of Omaha.' Read more
The story of Dynamite Pete: Hermit who lived near Platte River was 'one of the colorful characters of the country.' Read more
In 1899, Omaha put on the Greater America Exposition. 'Almost immediately, things started to go wrong.' Read more
In 1920s Omaha, hellions were made cops to quell Halloween high jinks. Read more
In 1946, 130,000 stared up at the sky as Omaha hosted the World's Fair of Aviation. Read more
In 1948, an Omaha dream house was built and raffled as a movie promotion; it's still standing. Read more
In early Omaha, the steep hills had to go for the city to grow. Read more
In Omaha's first night game, 1929 Bluejays played in front of 'a record-smashing gathering.' Read more
In the 1940s, this Nebraska family took its big top, rides and animals on the road across the Midwest. Read more
Foundation for growth: In the early days, Omaha had lots of mud ... and lots of stray dogs. Read more
It's hard to believe now, but the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos played a 1967 preseason game in North Platte. Read more
Nebraska has had two national spelling champs, including one who triumphed on the state's first try. Read more
During WWII, Boys Town housed Japanese-Americans escaping forced internment. The homes are coming down, but the story endures. Read more
Nebraskans put on a show in front of Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Olympics. Read more
Omaha's humble beginnings: It all began at a ferry landing. Read more
Omaha's once-sprawling streetcar system now lives only in memory. Read more
Remembering Hermit Jim, Bellevue's social recluse who made his home near Fontenelle Forest. Read more
Remembering Robert F. Kennedy's whistle-stop tour across Nebraska. Read more
Researching his family tree turned up a Nebraska horse thief. And a grisly ending. Read more
Born in Omaha: Saunders brothers' startup exploded into rental car industry we know today. Read more
Spring game has gone through changes since Huskers' first in 1950. Read more
Remember that time they tested a Cold War fallout shelter for cows in Elkhorn? Read more
That time when an Omaha beer magnate's daughter married a German spy. Read more
The 'oldest tavern in the state,' locally owned Columbus bar hasn’t changed much since 1876. Read more
The road trip where CU’s offense was unstoppable, Paul Silas played Ali one-on-one and the Jays met Martin Luther King Jr. Read more
The story behind Petrow's Restaurant, an Omaha institution. Read more
Dynamite? Lightning? Erosion? The tale of Table Rock and what destroyed it. Read more
Tracking a beast – the May 6, 1975, Omaha tornado. Read more
What's the deal with Carter Lake (aka the only Iowa city west of the Missouri River)? Read more
Wildly colorful George Francis Train was a key player for the transcontinental railroad – and in turn, early Omaha. Read more