Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) today announced legislation creating a program that would allow Americans to donate hotel reward points to members of the Armed Forces who are traveling to receive care through the military health system and their families. "Hotels for Heroes," S. 1776, would be an expansion of the national "Hero Miles" program that provides free round-trip airfare to wounded warriors recovering at military or VA medical centers as well as to friends and family visiting them.
"The creation of the "Hotels for Heroes' program is the next step in providing military families with the support they need when their loved ones are wounded or injured," said Senator Cardin. "Americans are known for their generosity of spirit and love of country and this new program will allow them to show how much they appreciate the sacrifices made by our military by providing their families with additional support during a very difficult time. It's really about Americans helping other Americans who have given so much to our nation."
"Sometimes the love and support of family is the best medicine to help a wounded warrior recover from his or her injuries," Congressman Ruppersberger said. "We are thrilled to be able to help these soldiers heal with their families at their side by helping to reduce travel expenses. It's one small way to show our nation's heroes that we appreciate their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families."
Flights under the "Hero Miles" program, which was created by Congressman Ruppersberger in 2003, are made possible through frequent flyer mile donations made by individual airline passengers. The program is administered by the Fisher House, a non-profit organization that opens its homes to military families visiting their injured loved ones at hospitals across the country.
At the event, Fisher House announced its 25,000th ticket issued through the "Hero Miles" program.
"Fisher House Foundation is honored to have helped over 25,000 military families get to the bedside of their loved one," said Cindy Campbell, Fisher House Vice President for Community Relations and Media Affairs. "It is the thousands of patriotic Americans who have so willingly donated their frequent flyer miles who make this program a reality. Our goal is that no family will ever have to worry about how they will be able afford that ticket. We're here for them."
The "Hotels for Heroes" program requires authorizing legislation that will be introduced tomorrow by Congressman Ruppersberger and Senator Cardin. The bill already has bipartisan support: Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi will be the Republican co-sponsor. The bill already has bipartisan support: Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi will be the Republican co-sponsor.
"Families of wounded service men and women often face difficulty trying to be with their loved one during recovery," said Senator Wicker. "As Veterans Day approaches, this is a way to help and honor those who have given of themselves to protect the freedoms we hold dear."
"Hotels for Heroes" grew out of an event hosted by the Military Child Education Coalition in May 2011 at the Four Points by Sheraton BWI Airport. The nonprofit works to minimize the effects of family separation and transition on military children, who move from six to nine times during their K-12 school years.
"This idea was the outgrowth of an event we hosted in May to discuss ways to improve the lives of military families, especially children," said Dr. Mary Keller, President and CEO of the Military Child Education Coalition. "It shows the power behind convening community and business leaders in support of military-connected children and we are proud to be part of the conception of this program."