FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Most military installations have them; a house that seems out of place or is often considered a community center. The actual use of the home is typically known to service members, or their families, who have been stricken by a tragedy.
When the unexpected happens, may it be an illness or injury that requires immediate medical attention of a loved one. Where do you go? In a moment's notice, you may need to travel a long distance and be able to afford hotels for days or even weeks at a time. With all of these expectations, some of them may not be financially possible. When hope is lost and every door of opportunity closes; the Fisher House will leave theirs open.
The idea for the Fisher house came to Pauline Trost in the 1970s, after she witnessed the physical and financial struggle of a service member's family at the Bethesda Medical Center. Several years later, Trost's Husband spoke to Zachary Fisher, who ran with the idea and created the Fisher House Foundation. In 1990 Fisher donated $20 million to start building comfort homes for the families of military personnel that required medical services at various military installations.
“The Fisher family provided Fort Bragg with its first Fisher House in 1993, which Is number seven of 61 homes that have been built by the foundation,” said Lorie Southerland, manager of the Fort Bragg Fisher House. They've scheduled to build a second home near Womack Army Medical Center in the near future, said Southerland.
Last year alone, 278 families visited the home. Although the usual stay is about two weeks; they've had families stay for up to six months. There were over 2,000 nights of sleep provided for the families expense-free last year, said Southerland.
The Army isn't the only branch of service that is supported by this program.
“I keep saying soldier. If you would have been here a couple of weeks ago we had more Marines than soldiers,” said Southerland.
The focus of the Fisher House is primarily the families well being and to provide emotional support in their time of need.
Southerland, who is a Gold Star Mother, lost her son in Iraq. She's able to relate to the hardships that they're facing.
“I may have lost my son, but I get to see his brothers in arms every day,” said Southerland.
According to Southerland, a lot of people don't know about this program. They either come from a base that doesn't have one or is just completely unaware. “My husband is retired Air Force now, when we used the Fisher House we'd been here for 14 years and before that time, we never knew anything about it.”
It's good to get this information out, especially to the units. If a soldier gets injured from a flight jump, a car wreck or even needs minor surgery, they should know that their family has a place to rest their head, said Southerland.
“If a soldier comes in and says that he's in the process of having surgery, but he lives in the barracks and wants his family there, this is the first information that I give to newly injured soldiers,” said Anthony Pugh, outreach coordinator at the Warrior Transition Battalion. “Then I contact the Fisher House where they get rooms for their families, at no cost to the soldier.”
Among providing a place to stay, the Fisher House also provides additional programs to assist in travel and hotel expenses.
“They have a wonderful program called Hero Miles, where people donate their flight miles,” said Southerland. This program along with another called Hotels for Heroes, help those families that can't cover the cost of travel or hotel fees.
The Fisher house doesn't always get the media attention that they're owed. But in recent news, the organization has come through for the grief stricken families of recent fallen service members. After the government shutdown, the death gratuity was not covered in the military pay bill. Stepping up to the plate, the Fisher House was the first to show initiative in providing these families with proper funerals that their loved ones deserve. At the end of the day hope may seem lost, but it can be found through the doors opened by the Fisher House.
By U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew Britton
Provided through DVIDS
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