With a flip of dirt, New York City veterans and their families have something special to look forward to.
Thursday marked the start of construction on two homes at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx. The brand-new 16-suite, 14,000-square foot homes in the Bronx will be place for military families to stay while their loved ones are on the tough road to recovery.
"I know a lot of veteran families are hurting and living paycheck to paycheck and in deep debt," said Ian Betz, who's retired from the U.S. Navy. "So this is going to help a lot of families."
The two Fisher Houses in the Bronx, the first in New York City, will cost about $14 million to build but will save thousands of families millions of dollars. It's a dream project years in the making for Ken Fisher, a Bronx native and CEO of Fisher Foundation, which provides free housing to military families.
"Every groundbreaking is special, but to be here, the first Fisher Houses in New York City, I'm so thrilled that it's in the Bronx where I grew up," said Fisher. "It's really a day I'll never forget."
Since 1990, the Fisher Foundation has provided 7 million days of free housing to more than 300,000 military families. The foundation operates 71 homes at 24 military posts and 29 VA centers across the country, with more homes set to open before the end of the year.
The Bronx Fisher Houses are scheduled to open their doors in 2018.
Army veteran Gene Laureano, who's learning to walk again at JJP, said having family close by does wonders for Wounded Warriors as they try to find the light during dark days.
"A lot of families live thousands of miles away," he said. "Imagine the stress it's taking off of them to know they can be near their loved ones. Even just being there for support. It's a huge deal."