Reno Veterans Guest House Welcomes 10,000th Guest

By: By SARAH COOPER Daily Sparks Tribune
By: By SARAH COOPER Daily Sparks Tribune

RENO, Nev. (AP) - From his recovery room window at the Veterans
Hospital on Locust Street in Reno, Dave Lantry can look down on a
little gray house. Inside, his wife, Anna, can usually be found laughing with other veterans and their wives.

"It gives me peace of mind," said Lantry, a U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War.

The Lantrys were the 10,000th guests to stay at the veterans guest house, which provides more than 3,000 room nights per year to out-of-town veterans and their families during hospital visits.

The veterans hospital saw 25,996 outpatients in fiscal year 2008 and accepted 3,700 inpatients, said Alilia McNeal, a hospital official.

"We don't have any official, formal relation with the veterans guest house," McNeal said. "But they provide an invaluable service to our veterans and their families."

The idea for the veterans guest house was born on a cold winter night in 1991 when Dick Rhyno and Chuck Fulkerson were walking out of the veterans hospital and saw the fogged up windows of an old car along the side of the road. Families who couldn't afford hotels were sleeping in their cars to be near their loved ones during their hospital stays.

"It really saved us," Anna Lantry said. "Otherwise I would be sleeping in my car."

The guest house was built in 1994 and upgraded to accommodate seven beds. Then in 2004, it was demolished to make way for an expanded 4,700-square-foot, 12-bed home across the street. The current home opened on Veterans Day in 2004.

"The demand is way over the supply here," Dave Lantry said. "But they just bend over backwards to make us comfortable."

The guest house operates on donations and just under $300,000 per year, house manager Kathi McGathey said. The nonprofit corporation is run entirely on donations and receives no federal funding or formal assistance from the veterans hospital. The facility has a staff of two: McGathey and veterans guest house executive director Noreen Leary.

From her desk on the second floor, McGathey likes to lean back and listen to the stories that guests exchange as they gather in the living room just downstairs.

"As I sit right here in the open, I get to hear the coolest stories," McGathey said. "One time this one man was talking about (President Dwight D.) Eisenhower walking across the tarmac to come see the soldiers."

The Lantrys have been guests at the veterans house many times in the past year, commuting back and forth from their home in Pahrump.

"We have made a lot of friends here," Dave Lantry said. "We swap phone numbers and stay in touch. Pretty soon it's like home week."

Fermina Duncan and Linda Marlett cradled cups of coffee on a recent morning in the kitchen as the Lantrys sat in the living room.

"The best thing (about coming to the house) was the relief of the stress," Marlett said. "I was very near a breaking point but when I stayed the first night here, we got to laugh for the first time in months."

Marlett, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, is staying at the house while her husband, Pat Marlett, is in the veterans hospital.

"All of us are under an extreme amount of stress," Marlett said. "But we have all decided that we have to laugh, because if you don't you will cry."

Duncan is staying in the veterans guest house while her husband Don, 83, a World War II Navy cook, is in the veterans hospital with cancer.

"It's not like a hotel or a boarding house," Dave Lantry said.

"It's more like a home," , as Anna Lantry chimed in.

The $1.2 million home was given a $725,000 mortgage and through donations, that mortgage is now down to $315,000.
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On the Web:
Veterans Guest House: www.veteransguesthouse.org.
Veterans Hospital Reno: www.reno.va.gov.
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Information from: Sparks Tribune, http://www.sparkstribune.net

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-11-08-08 0320EST


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