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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Groundbreaking Ceremony, Defenders’ Lodge
VA Palo Alto Health Care System
September 16, 2011

Distinguished Members of Congress, Anna Eshoo and Mike Honda;

Palo Alto Mayor, Sid Espinoza;

Chris Flynn and Lonnie Stith—thank you and the PenFed Foundation Board for your most generous support;

Jim Quinn, Chairman of the Board, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, as well, thank you;

Lee and Penny Anderson, on behalf of VA and all Veterans, let me express our gratitude for your great personal generosity in making Defenders' Lodge a reality. Your gift symbolizes great respect and love for those who defend freedom.

Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Let me invite the former POWs in the audience to stand, if able, or wave a hand, so we can properly acknowledge you. Thank you for your service, and for what you endured on our behalf. Our Nation's respect for your sacrifice is deep and abiding;

Peter Gravett, Secretary of Veterans Affairs for California;

My thanks also to members of the Marine Corps Color Guard, Chaplain Jackson, Milton Johnson, and Nick Perry, who led us in the pledge of allegiance;

Sheila Cullen, VISN director, and VA's entire VISN 21 team;

Fellow Veterans, other distinguished guests, VA colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon. I am greatly honored to be here to help break ground for this much-anticipated and much-needed Defenders' Lodge. An author once asked, "What value has compassion that does not take its object in its arms?"

Today, I am awed by the individual and collective generosities that are funding the building of this $12.5 million "home away from home." Your compassion is clear, as is the extraordinary value of our men and women in uniform, past and present. You have taken them all into your arms, and embraced them by providing respite as they receive care and treatment here in Palo Alto.

From our greatest to our latest generations, we affirm that those who have safeguarded America are not forgotten and that our thanks as a Nation is genuine and unwavering.

Fellow citizens do care deeply about them.

By providing a convenient, supportive, and safe retreat—replete with amenities and special health accommodations—this Defenders' Lodge will bring a measure of peace to families, and comfort to the ill and injured.

Much like the Fisher House that adjoins it, another generous demonstration of thanks and appreciation, this Defenders' Lodge will add value to the quality, care, and compassion that resides here at Palo Alto—a habitat for healing, health, and rehabilitation for many of the more than 10,000 patients who annually seek treatment here, from all across the western United States, and even beyond.

Saint Francis of Assisi said, "When you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by service, love, sacrifice and courage."

The PenFed Foundation, Lee and Penny Anderson, and all the many good people who contributed to this project, have given their "full hearts" to the men and women who earned such generosity and compassion through their service and, all too often, disabling sacrifice.

On their behalf, I cannot thank the contributors enough for this magnificent gift to America's defenders.

God bless our men and women in uniform. God bless our Veterans. And may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.

Thank you.