The patriarch of a charitable group that on Wednesday bailed out the U.S. government lambasted the political system that allowed cuts to the death benefits to military families, calling it un-American.
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that the Fisher House Foundation would donate the $100,000 usually issued immediately to each family of fallen troops to allow them to pay for travel and other expenses related to the death. These funds had been cut due to gridlock throughout Capitol Hill and the White House that has prompted the continued shutdown.
"It's the worst thing this country has ever done: Allowing these families to come to Dover Air Force Base on their own money," said Arnold Fisher, who served as top officer at Fisher House in the late 1990s, before turning the reins over to his son Kenneth Fisher in 2003. He spoke Thursday at the Daily Beast's Hero Summit in Washington, D.C.
"Stop the nonsense," he said of the president and members of Congress. "And never -- it doesn't matter what the excuse is -- take it out on the military."
Fisher House was founded in 1991 by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, after the wife of the Chief of Naval Operations said the military needed temporary lodging facilities at military medical centers. It opened its first two Fisher Houses at the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.
There are now 62 facilities, which have served more than 180,000 families.
The House voted on Wednesday unanimously, 425-0, on a law that would reinstate these benefits during the shutdown.
Fisher referenced what he calls a heavy toll on modern soldiers, who sustain lost limbs due to the improvised explosive devices that have defined the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They also endure invisible wounds, such as traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
Fisher, who now serves as honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, blamed the shutdown and subsequent cuts on politicians who view party alliance as more important than national service.
"This business of being a Democrat or being a Republican does not automatically make you an American," he said. "In order to be an American, you vote 'America.' You vote for what's best for America."
America has lost that principle, Fisher said, which could cause irreparable damage to the country if it doesn't correct that course.
"This was not the same country I was born in. And to be honest with you, I don't like it," he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday said he was "offended, outraged, and embarrassed" that his department could not offer these benefits to the families of fallen troops.
"The Department has no higher priority than taking care of our service members and their families," Hagel said. "Congress has responsibilities as well, and it has abdicated them."