Page 1

2018 VOLUME 9 • ISSUE 1



A Growing Military Family COVER STORY page 14


“Fisher House

Was Our First CAPT. SULLY VISITS TRAVIS AFB FISHER HOUSES (Story featured on page 3)



Hero Program Support During Tragedies

Kane Show Host Supports Military Families

(Story featured on page 6)

(Story featured on page 9)

Contents Social Media Support


Capt. Sully Visits Travis AFB Fisher House


Guest Family­Profile: The Coffey Family


Bill Murray Entertains Families at Fisher House


Hero Programs Support During Tragedies


Journal Entries


Comedy Tour Benefits Fisher House


Honoring A Hero in Our Family


Meet the Staff


Team Fisher House Salutes


NFL Players Visit MN Fisher Houses


Sharing Your Fisher House Story


COVER STORY: Growing Military Family's First Home is a Fisher House


What's With Those State Pillows


Team Fisher House


Hearts in the Community


Community Groups in Action


House Roundup


Meet the Manager


Dedications & Groundbreakings


Down Range


Fisher House Directory



About Fisher House Foundation Inc. Fisher House Foundation is best known for its network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide and in Europe, close to the medical center or hospital they serve. Fisher Houses have up to 21 suites, with private bedrooms and baths. Families share a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a warm dining room and an inviting living room. Fisher House Foundation ensures that there is never a lodging fee. Since its inception, the program has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $400-plus million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation. Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members; as well as the Hotels for Heroes program, using donated hotel points to allow family members to stay without charge at hotels near medical centers. The Foundation also manages a grant program that supports other military charities and scholarship funds for military children, spouses, and children of fallen and disabled veterans. Fisher House Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the IRS code. Donations to Fisher House Foundation or individual Fisher Houses are tax-deductible to the maximum extent permitted by law.

At Fisher House Foundation, our magazine, much like the work we do, is about teamwork. The Patriot is created in-house by our communications staff. Our team of graphic designers at Don Schaaf & Friends in Washington, D.C., donates services toward the design of each issue, and our printing partners help ensure we are getting the best rates possible. The Patriot magazine is one of our best resources to educate audiences about the Foundation’s work, and we are proud of the product we create. We are grateful to provide this resource at a very minimal cost, thanks to the work of everyone involved. At Fisher House, we always strive to be good stewards of your donation to the Foundation.

Fisher House Program

CHAIRMAN AND CEO Kenneth Fisher PRESIDENT David A. Coker

by the

CHIEF OF STAFF Mary Considine



$400+ Million


Savings for Families in Lodging and Transportation Cost

Address all correspondence to: The Patriot Fisher House Foundation 12300 Twinbrook Parkway Suite 410 Rockville, MD 20852 Phone: (301) 294-8560 Fax: (301) 294-8562 Email:



8 Million Days of Lodging Offered

OVER 335,000+ Families Served 76 Fisher Houses in Operation Cover photo by Craig Orsini

The statistics in this graphic reflect the Fisher House program’s impact since inception.

LETTER FROM KEN FISHER Dear Friends, Although my great-uncle Zachary’s vision didn’t come from his own military service, he nonetheless understood that families served too. His early Fisher Houses were built to support those families in their time of need. Today, he would be amazed to see 76 homes that can, on any given night, serve more than 1,000 families safely and free of charge. I am proud of our accomplishments, not only because of our statistics, but because of the people we touch in a positive way each and every day — thanks to your support. Families like that of Marine Cpl. Dustin Braun, whom you can read more about on page 14. At just 23 years old, Dustin lay in a coma for four months. Doctors told his wife, Samantha, he probably would not survive. Samantha was by his side throughout the ordeal, staying in a Fisher House. When Dustin finally came out of the coma, the first words he spoke were, “I love you” to Samantha, and she cried. It was during the shower for their first baby, held at the Fisher House.

Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO, Fisher House Foundation with Invictus Games athletes and supporters in Toronto.

“I was so touched by the baby shower, especially when the recreation therapists brought Dustin over from the polytrauma center. It was a memory I will never forget. Fisher House made that possible,” Samantha says.

Most Americans have no idea what a military family endures, especially when their loved one is wounded or sick. I’m so proud that, together, we play a role in recognizing and serving these families and bringing their struggle into the open. In each issue of The Patriot, when I share the accomplishments of the Fisher House program with our readers, I share the pride in what we have achieved together toward the goal of meeting unmet needs. Your support makes the difference and allows us to meet the expanding needs of our military, veterans and their families. With heartfelt gratitude, I thank you. Sincerely,

Kenneth Fisher Chairman and CEO, Fisher House Foundation @KenFisherFHF

Charity Ratings: A+ Fisher House Foundation strives to be a good steward of the resources entrusted to us. It is a privilege to do the work we do, and we are proud to hold the highest ratings awarded by the top national charity watchdog organizations. Fisher House Foundation has received an A+from CharityWatch in i ts Veterans and Military category. Out of 65 charities rated, Fisher House Foundation is one of only two charities to receive this distinctive A+ rating. Charity Navigator awarded the Foundation its coveted 4-star rating for sound fiscal management for the 14th consecutive year, a rating achieved by less than 1 percent of the charities in the country that it monitors.



SOCIAL MEDIA SUPPORT FACEBOOK FEEDBACK “Made my donation today in honor of my cousin Edward Matayka and his great family. I know Fisher House helped them when things were at their worst.” — Dolores C. “Fisher House helped me when my hubby had heart surgery. What a blessing.” — Wendye R. “Fisher House is a blessing to many veterans and their families. Our family stayed at the one in Murfreesboro, TN. Fisher House made our visit with our family member so much better for him and us. Thank you. Prayers for their good work.” — Julie B. “We were able to stay at the Fisher House at Dover AFB when our daughter’s husband was killed and we waited for his return home. It was a blessing!” — Kay-Tom K.

TWITTER LOVE “WWE Superstars visited U.S. service members and their families at Fisher House San Diego during @tributetotroops 2017! @usnavy@deptofdefense #Troops15” —WWE @wwe “Sometimes in the winds of change, we find our true direction.” Thank you @fisherhousefdtn for giving us a safe, warm place to rest. We are truly grateful for EVERYTHING from the delicious foods, warm beds and caring hospitality from your staff and volunteers.” —Heather Robinson, @errorofmyweighs “Thank you Fisher Marlins for sending your donations to the Fisher House at Lackland AFB, they sure did appreciate the breakfast items and gift cards we donated- we filled their truck! @nisdfisher @nisd @LacklandAFB #studentcouncilproject #bestschoolever #worldchangers” —Leah, @clarkleah01 “Thank you to the Armed Forces Financial Network for their generous donation to the Bay Pines @fisherhousefdtn. We sincerely appreciate your partnership.” — Bay Pines VAHCS, @vabaypines

Share your story with us using the hashtag #FisherHouse!

JOIN THE CONVERSATION! Don’t forget to connect with us on Instagram too (@fisherhousefdtn). Share your story with us using the hashtag #FisherHouse!



“There is only a tiny fraction of our entire population that is doing all the heavy lifting, putting their needs aside and serving a cause greater than themselves.” – CAPT. SULLY

Story by Ashley Estill Photos by Heide Couch, 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

CAPT. SULLY VISITS TRAVIS AFB FISHER HOUSES Before Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger landed a jet on the Hudson River in New York or was played by Tom Hanks in a movie, Sully served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. It was his service and passion for giving back that led him to the Travis Air Force Base Fisher Houses in California.

decisions he could in that moment. He also credited his wife and daughters for their sacrifices and support. Lorrie acknowledged that her entire family healed together, just as families at Fisher House do.

Sully and his wife, Lorrie, visited with Fisher House families and spoke about the parallels of his service and the service and sacrifices of Fisher House guests.

Ronnie’s wife, Candice, is grateful she can be with her husband. She said, “It has eliminated a lot of stress… being here in one place and being together.”

Ronnie, an Army veteran, spoke about his battle with posttraumatic stress disorder and asked Sully how he coped with his own trauma following his experience landing a jet in the middle of the Hudson River. Another veteran being treated for cancer, Michael, asked how someone could prepare for an event like this.

Sully spoke about Fisher House founders Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, and added onto their legacy of giving: “I’m reminded of Zachary Fisher’s quote that people aren’t remembered for what they have; they’re remembered for what they give. And to that, I can only add, and for what they do.”

Sully went into detail about coping with his PTSD from the famous flight and how his military flight training and his experience as an airline pilot prepared him to make the best THE PATRIOT • VOLUME 9 • ISSUE 1 • 2018


GUEST FAMILY PROFILE: The Coffey Family Story by Ashley Estill

NAME: James Coffey HOUSE: Long Beach, California HOME: Paso Robles, California MILITARY BRANCH: Marine Corps


HELPS FAMILIES STAY TOGETHER In October 2016, James (“Jim”) Coffey was in a terrible car accident that left him a quadriplegic. He spent weeks in the hospital before doctors discovered he was bleeding internally. Once he was stabilized, Jim was eventually transferred to the VA hospital in Long Beach, California, to continue receiving medical treatment.

your biggest support group,” she says. “Fisher House is just the best place to be. It allows you to be by your loved ones in the hospital, and I believe they need someone there. My husband is living proof that Fisher House helps families stay together.”

His wife of 37 years, Teresa Coffey, has remained by her husband’s side. Before Teresa could call Fisher House her home at the Long Beach VA, she had stayed in her car and various hotels while Jim received treatment at other medical centers prior to coming to Long Beach. “Before I got to Fisher House, I probably spent $4,000 on hotels,” Teresa says. “When I got to VA, they asked where I was staying, and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Then I found out about Fisher House. My first question was how much it was going to cost, and they said it was free. I said, ‘Free—now that’s a good price!’” When Jim arrived in Long Beach, he was on a ventilator and couldn’t speak. Teresa wasn’t sure how far he would come, but she never gave up. After a few months, Jim was removed from the ventilator, and Teresa started helping him strengthen his arms. She would tell Jim, “No pain, no gain. You always told me this.” Now Jim has use of his shoulders and wrists. His hands have atrophied, but he can feed himself. Although he will always be in a wheelchair and paralyzed from the chest down, he has improved, thanks to having Teresa by his side. “Jim said he would have given up a long time ago, but I’m his encouragement to keep going,” says Teresa. Teresa’s Fisher House fellow residents kept her going as well. “We’re a big family here, and I feel very comfortable. Everybody needs somebody to talk to—and your Fisher House family is 4


Photo: Courtesy of the Coffey family

BILL MURRAY Entertains Families at

FISHER HOUSE Story by Mary-Elizabeth Pratt

Bill Murray, a true icon in Hollywood, is much more than the funny men he portrays on the big screen. Who knew this actor, with 83 acting credits to his name and many exemplary roles, is also an accomplished singer and someone who cares deeply about our military and their families. On the eve of Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends headlining at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Fisher House families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center were treated to a special evening with Bill Murray and his trio of musicians, including violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez. Starting with a Mission BBQ dinner, Bill Murray’s performance brought both laughter and tears to families and staff, as he used his comedy and acting skills to bring Broadway songs, big-band ballads and literature to life. By the first song’s end, families were clapping, stomping and singing along to familiar tunes. This was by no means the first time Murray had sung to an audience. As a teen, he was the lead singer of a rock band called the Dutch Masters and began acting in his high school and community theater. Many may remember when he was Nick the Lounge Singer on Saturday Night Live. His latest project is New Worlds, an album where he sings and reads American classics accompanied by renowned German cellist Jan Vogler, who was also with him at the Fisher House. After his performance to a packed house, Murray met with the families. Just like the Bill Murray in the news and on the big screen, he cracked jokes, held several Fisher House babies and thanked the families that joined in on the evening.



Meeting Needs the Military Cannot — Hero Programs Support During Tragedies

FISHER HOUSE FOUNDATION RESPONDS TO FAMILIES IN CRISIS Story by Kerri Childress Photos courtesy of the Semolina Family A giant explosion lit the Hawaiian night, and soon after, two Marine CH-53 helicopters carrying 12 men went missing. It was Jan. 14, 2016, and one of those Marines was 24-year-old Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina. Lisa De La Cruz, Sgt. Semolina’s mother, first learned about the accident on Facebook. “Our world fell out from under us,” she says. “We had to get to Hawaii, but we lived in Minnesota and did not have the resources to get there, let alone [have] anywhere to stay. The Marine Corps couldn’t help while Dillon was DUSTWUN (duty status whereabouts unknown), so we turned to Fisher House. Fisher House gave us something so incredible that I can’t put it into words. Fisher House made it possible for us to be there for our son.” Sgt. Semolina’s family was not alone in needing assistance. As a result of this tragedy, Fisher House Foundation provided 14 families 99 airline tickets through its Hero Miles program, as well as 88 nights of lodging through the Hotels for Heroes program. “Our primary mission is building homes,” said Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation. “But we can adapt quickly to meet urgent needs. We are unique in that we work with our DoD partners, bridging the gap between what they can and cannot do. If we can remove burdens and make a difficult situation a little easier, then we have succeeded.” The Hawaiian tragedy was not the only time Fisher House has filled a gap to help military families. For example, the Foundation supported families when the USS McCain collided with an oil tanker in August 2017, leaving 10 sailors dead and five injured. Even more recently, Fisher House flew families to be near their loved ones when an



Army Black Hawk helicopter went down during a training exercise off the coast of Hawaii. “With tragedy comes much chaos and confusion,” said Tish Stropes, vice president for strategic initiatives at Fisher House Foundation, who runs the Hero Programs. “We quickly assess the situation, determine needs and mobilize. In doing so, we bring calm to the storm and remove burdens from families in need.” Government rules and regulations can, unfortunately, often limit and prevent the government from doing what it might for our military. A perfect example of this paradox occurred during the 2013 government shutdown when the Department of Defense could not pay the death benefits due to service members for their ultimate sacrifice. Fisher House Foundation was there for grief-stricken military families, volunteering to help the federal government meet this need — and, despite the crisis ending quickly, wound up providing $750,000 in grants to 30 families. According to Ken Fisher, “Families like the De La Cruzes are so very deserving. They are deeply dedicated to overcoming the challenges they confront. Helping them isn’t charity, but rather this nation’s solemn duty. In these very tough situations, they don’t quit. Neither should we.” For Lisa, her husband Mike, and their four other children ­— Greg, Gabe, Isabella and Celeste­— being able to be in Hawaii with each other during the search period was critical. They were as close as they could be to Dillon and to each other. On Jan. 14, 2016, a Marine Corps helicopter carrying Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, exploded killing him and 11 others. Fisher House was there to support his large family, and other families, as well, enabling them to be nearby during the search for remains.

Remembering Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina Dillon’s remains were not located, but he earned with his sacrifice a funeral with full military honors. When entering Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, off to the right in the horizon, you will find a marble memory stone forever engraved with Dillon’s name. “We will forever be healing from our loss,” says Lisa. “And the second year has been worse than the first in many ways. But one thing is for sure, we couldn’t have made it through this without Fisher House’s love, compassion and support. Thanks for sharing Dillon’s story, and thank you to Fisher House for all you have done for our family. We would’ve been absolutely lost without your help. You were steps ahead of us [in] knowing what our journey [would bring]. No words can describe the incredible volume of kindness and caring you provided for our family.”

It was the Fourth of July the last time Dillon (center in blue shirt) was home with his family in Minneapolis. It was one of his favorite holidays, and everyone came home to be together. “We made it very special for him, with a Marine Corps cake, decorations. [The] fruit was red, white and blue in the shape of a flag, etc.” says Lisa De La Cruz, Dillon’s mom. “He loved it. We had not had a family reunion with all the kids in years. Looking back on that day, I realize God placed us together for that last special day. God gave us this picture to remember Dillon forever.” At 6 feet 2 inches and 210 pounds, Dillon was aptly nicknamed “Semi.” He played football, basketball and golf. He was dedicated to good health and working out. If a group was laughing, it was probably because of something he said — he was usually the center of attention, always making people laugh. Since age 10, Dillon had wanted to be in the military. In high school, Dillon would put on a weighted vest and low-crawl on the football field to prepare for basic training. He decided to join the Marine Corps and work with helicopters like his step-dad, Mike, who made the Marine Corps a career. He excelled in the military and made rank quickly. “Dillon was the whole family’s hero long before he was lost,” says his mom. “Today, we all wear his dog tags. I will never forget those days in Hawaii sitting on the beach just waiting, watching and praying that the next Coast Guard chopper would bring Dillon back. My family was there too, thanks to Fisher House. In the end, we came home alone, leaving Dillon in that ocean where I watched and waited and prayed.”



Within the walls of each Fisher filled House guest suite are journals of a s with entries containing storie or just loved one, encouraging words, will rds a simple thank-you. These wo g in be read by the next family stayin and ce that room for them to find pea se hope. Here, we share a few of the s. words, written by our familie

The Fisher House has been an amazing gif t from God during this stressful time for our family. I couldn’t be more impressed with the staff. The proximity to the hospital is so convenient, and so many of our needs are being handled with elegance and supreme courtesy. We pray that many continue to be blessed by the Fisher House. To anyone reading this in a time of difficulty, remember I love you and that God works ALL THINGS for the good of those who love him.



g at the Fisher r We started stayi2nye House when ourd wi- tharle-ukoldemdaiaug. hte was diagnose ssing for myself, It’s been a ble3 month old to be husband and -close to-her while able to stay so r to be wel enough we wait for he to go home. Thank you. to me dur ing Fish er Hou se has bee n suc h a bles sing . It give s me my hus ban d’s neu rosu rger y hos pita l stay long hou rs a plac e to dec omp ress and rela x from com e. It is a at the ICU and now the reh ab to laun dry, coo k, bea utif ul faci lity with all I nee d to do ding to com mute eat, slee p, sho wer , with out eve r nee etc. It fee ls bac k and fort h, find a park ing plac e, bac k. I fee l like I com e “ho me” eac h time I com e ing staf f to safe and sec ure, and app reci ate hav I nee d. ans wer que stio ns and ass ist in any way l

Entries From Fisher House Guests

y d e r u m Co To F

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Intern John, star of The Kane Show, hosts Peer Pressure Comedy Tour to support military families. Story by Ashley Estill Photos courtesy of Tommy Gatz Entertainment

When Army Spc. Mimi Xaysana was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, her family and friends immediately rallied behind her. A native of Falls Church, Virgina, Mimi’s family made the trip to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where Mimi was stationed, to support Mimi through her diagnosis and ensuing journey. Her friend, Intern John, star of iHeartMedia’s nationally syndicated The Kane Show, flew down that week. “Mimi’s family was there; Fisher House provided the airfare,” John begins. “I heard of Fisher House before, but didn’t know or understand what they did. Mimi’s family was down there for months. If they had to pay airfare and for a hotel for that time… nobody can afford that.” A short time after visiting Mimi, John attended a comedy show by Pete Davidson, of Saturday Night Live fame, and was struck with an idea. “I thought, ‘I could probably do stand-up’— which was so stupid. But then I thought, ‘Maybe we can do it and raise money for Fisher House.’” The Peer Pressure Comedy Tour was born of that idea, and John hosted his first show in Rockville, Maryland, in October 2016. Mimi’s story was the catalyst. John told Mimi’s story on air and introduced the comedy show. Within minutes, the show was sold out, and a second show was added. “When I heard that, I was so blown away,” Mimi says. “I am so proud of him for everything. He helped my family, and the support shows that people really care. They’re listening.”

Thanks to the success of the first show, the Peer Pressure Comedy Tour went on the road in 2017, performing shows in Arlington, Virginia; Baltimore; Louisville, Kentucky; and St. Petersburg, Florida, culminating with a show at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. “The Warner Theatre had shows listed on their website for Dave Chappelle, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden… and Intern John,” laughs John. John’s fellow comedians, Kyle Cromer, Dee Ahmed and DJ Tommy Gatz, all donated their time and talents to support Mimi and other Fisher House families, efforts that resulted in raising over $10,000 — and counting — for Fisher House. “Thanks to Fisher House, Mimi could focus on her recovery,” John says. “She’s going through cancer but worrying about everybody else. Fisher House lifted a huge burden.” “All the nurses and doctors kept asking if I was ok,” says Mimi. “I just wanted to make sure my family was taken care of — and they were. I thought, ‘Ok, I just have to take care of myself.’ It was a lot easier, thanks to Fisher House.” Today, Mimi is retired from the Army and back home in Virginia — cancer-free. To learn more about Intern John’s Peer Pressure Comedy Tour, visit



Honoring a Hero in Our Family Fisher House Foundation recently lost a great American hero, a friend, a loving husband and father, and a Foundation Trustee. SSG Dale Beatty (Ret.), 39, was serving in Iraq with the Army National Guard in 2004, when an explosive device (IED) detonated under his Humvee causing serious, life-changing injuries. His extensive injuries only slowed him down a little — he continued serving veterans for the rest of his life through Fisher House Foundation and Dale’s own nonprofit organization, Purple Heart Homes. After sustaining wounds on the battlefield, Dale was sent to Landstuhl, Germany, to be stabilized before being transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, for long-term rehabilitation. His wife, Belinda, and their two boys soon joined Dale. About a week into Dale’s recovery, he asked his wife where she and the boys were staying. Although they were originally in a hotel, Dale’s family had moved into the Fisher House. This was the first Dale heard about the Fisher House program, but he soon became very familiar with this new home that allowed his family to be present during his recovery. “I’ve seen a lot of charities do a lot of different things for the military, but only Fisher House has focus on the entire family as a unit,” Dale said. “We were all able to be together. Without Fisher House Foundation, I don’t know what my prognosis would have been, or where I would be now not having my family next to me. What we had was irreplaceable,” said Dale. Dale suffered a pulmonary embolism at his home on the morning of February 12. It was a devastating loss to his family and to our nation. “Dale selflessly and continuously gave of himself to honor the men and women who serve our country and their families,” said Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation. “We are blessed to have known him. We ask you to keep Dale; his wife, Belinda; and their children, Dustin, Lucas and Sophia, in your prayers. Rest assured they will always be in our hearts,” said Ken.



Tishes Strop nt of eside ives r P e Vic itiat d gic In lan Strateville, Mary Rock

MEET the Staff

Fisher House Foundation is comprised of many passionate and talented people. Each issue you’ll meet someone who helps contribute to our mission of supporting our military, veterans and their families.

Tish Stropes Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Mother Teresa often said, “I, alone, cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” I remember running my first Marine Corps Marathon in 2006. I had heard about a group of spouses raising money for Fisher House Foundation and thought, Why not? Almost 12 years later, I sit in my office housed within the walls of Fisher House Foundation’s headquarters. I always say working at Fisher House is my “insurance plan,” that I will never need to stay at a house or be on the other side. But truth be told, I am actually on the other side every single moment of every single day. My parents came to this country as children. They left Cuba, a country where freedom was no longer theirs. I was raised in a culture and family where taking care of others was not an option, but was rather a part of everyday life. It was never a burden, but always a privilege. I guess that’s why I feel so at home here at Fisher House. You see, my job is not a job, but a way of life, a passion that burns within me and has long been present. I started working at Fisher House in 2010 as the Hero Miles Coordinator. Over the years, my job has grown, and I am now the vice president of strategic initiatives. Beyond that, I am a daughter, a military spouse and a mother of two amazing children. I am a friend and a co-worker. I am the voice on the other end of the phone. I hug those I love and even those I do not know. I am the smile that makes your day and the hand that holds the door for you. I cry in movies and laugh until I cry. I am sensitive; I care. I am grateful for my life, my family, my friends. I am grateful for YOU. Yes, YOU, reading this article. You may not know it, but YOU too shape my life. Thank you for letting me give of myself because, for me, that is a life worth living. –Tish Stropes





Military service members, veterans and their families are supported by countless organizations that acknowledge their sacrifices. Here we feature a top-tier organization each issue.


The Armed Services YMCA focuses on strengthening military families by providing programs and assistance to service men and women. Their hands-on, innovative and specialized programs support military families and are offered at low cost, and require no dues or membership fees. “We are proud to serve active-duty Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard families across the country. We are strengthening our military family through tailored programs and services focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility,” said Armed Services YMCA President and CEO William French, VADM, USN (Ret). “The challenges they face as they provide for the safety and security of our nation is immense. We owe it to them to help.” The Armed Services YMCA partnered with Fisher House Foundation and United Health Foundation to increase capacity and improve the curriculum of the Fisher Children’s Center at Camp Pendleton in California, the only hourly child-care center on base. The grant was possible through the extension of United Health Group's support after donating to the construction of the new Fisher House for Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital in California. “We are very excited about our partnership with Fisher House Foundation,” said Admiral French. “The work they do is so meaningful for our troops and their families. Their great work is known throughout the military community. We are blessed to be working alongside such a wonderful organization.” Nearly 500,000 young enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families are supported each year by the Armed Services YMCA, thanks to its donors and volunteers. There are 34 branches and affiliates supporting 59 military installations. The ASYMCA has 500 employees, and more than 10,000 volunteers to fulfill its mission and provide programs like child-care, spouse-support services, emergency support, summer camps, and holiday programs. For more information about the Armed Services YMCA, visit 12


NFL Players Visit Minneapolis Fisher Houses NFL Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater knows a thing or two about devastating injuries. As a starter for the Minnesota Vikings, he suffered a

Sharing Your Fisher House Story Fisher House received this story from one grandmother who was able to call Fisher House her home during a brief stay…

serious knee injury in 2016 that nearly ended his career. After a yearlong rehabilitation, he returned

While her daddy was in Afghanistan, our little

to the field. This year, ahead of the big game,

granddaughter was born at Fort Hood, Texas, with

Teddy joined a delegation of other NFL players

many medical issues. She was airlifted to San

to visit the Minneapolis Fisher Houses and use

Antonio. Our son came home on emergency leave,

his comeback story to inspire and encourage

and we came from [New Hampshire] to meet her.

families currently staying at the Fisher Houses.

We were all allowed to stay at Fisher House for our

Teddy was joined by Abe Elam, Jacoby Brissett

three-day stay, and our son and his wife stayed

and Mike Adams.

for the three weeks baby Alyssa was hospitalized. While there, we saw some devastating injuries to our beloved military. Our reason for being there seemed so insignificant compared to the majority of people who were staying there. We were all treated with such respect. At no time during our stay was money ever mentioned — not even an insignificant envelope laying around for a donation. It was Christmastime, and everything was made so festive for the families who were staying there. They were doing their best to make bad situations a little better. Happily, our little Alyssa is a delightful 5-year-old now. She is deaf and has cochlear implants. Her life is not an easy one, but she is very bright and works hard to keep up with her big sister. I will always remember with gratitude our stay at Fisher House. Thank you. –

Marlene T.




Growing Military Family’s First HOME is a Fisher House Story by Kerri Childress Photos by Craig Orsini

They were high school sweethearts. Upon graduation, he joined the Marine Corps, and soon after they married. A few years later, she was pregnant with their first child. They were living the American dream. And then they were not — when a car accident in June 2017 left Marine Cpl. Dustin Braun severely brain injured and fighting for his life. Twenty-three years old, Dustin lay in a coma; doctors told his wife, Samantha, he probably wouldn’t survive. She never gave up on him and was by his side throughout it all, from the five weeks in ICU, to the Emerging Consciousness program at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, VA — one of five VA polytrauma centers with skilled clinicians trained in severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

“When we brought the baby home to the Fisher House, within days he had more aunts and uncles than you could count,” Jennifer continued. “We were worried his crying would annoy people, but having him here has had the opposite effect — people just love him. He’s the first newborn at the Richmond Fisher House — sometimes babies are the best medicine.” Samantha, her mom, and the baby, a boy named Hunter, stayed at the Fisher House for six months. They spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years at the Fisher House. Other family members would join them, and for Thanksgiving Jennifer cooked a turkey and all the fixins for all the families at the house to share.

Samantha waited for Dustin to come out of his coma for four months. When he finally did, the first words he spoke to her were, “I love you,” and she cried. It was during her baby shower at the Fisher House. “That was the best gift I received that day,” she said. “There are so many things I have to be thankful for,” said Samantha, “but the Fisher House is definitely at the top of the list. I was so touched by the baby shower, especially when they brought Dustin over from the polytrauma center. It was a memory I will never forget. Fisher House made that possible.” Samantha and her mother, Jennifer Chittenden, are from Evansville, Indiana, more than a 10-hour drive from Richmond. Samantha had been living in Okinawa with her husband, where the accident had happened, and Jennifer had not left their sides since they arrived stateside. For Jennifer, whom Dustin calls mom, having other people in the house who were experiencing their own crises made a big difference in her ability to help her son-in-law. “I’ve met people here I will call friends for the rest of my life,” she said. “They have helped Samantha and me cope and, most importantly, continue to have faith.” 14


Above: Marine Cpl. Dustin Braun goes through rehabilitation at the Richmond VA Medical Center. Opposite page clockwise: Samantha Braun rocks her baby in her Fisher House room, complete with crib. Dustin, Jennifer Chittenden (Samantha’s mother) and Samantha found a home at the Richmond Fisher House for more than six months. Samantha and Justin, sweethearts since high school.

“I simply couldn’t imagine going through this without my mom,” said Samantha. “She has been my rock during Dustin’s recovery. And Fisher House truly has been our ‘home away from home’.” What is most striking about Samantha and Jennifer is their amazing attitudes. Perhaps it’s because they have a new son and grandson. Perhaps it’s because they have the Fisher House. Or, most likely, it’s because Dustin is finally on the mend — one word and one step at a time. “Dustin’s strength through all of this has been so immense and inspirational,” said Samantha. “We have always fed off of each other's love and strength, and even more so through all of this and with the birth of our new son. None of this has been easy for anyone in the family, especially for Dustin. As he continues to recover, he only amazes us and more and more. He will always be our hero. “You ask me why I seem so happy,” smiled Samantha. “Because my boys are such miracles.”



What’s With Those State Pillows in Each Fisher House? Story by Jim Weiskopf

Fisher House guest families arrive as strangers, but they quickly develop meaningful friendships. Fisher House trustees Audrey Fisher and Nancy Edelman knew this from their many visits to the houses as the Foundation’s good-will ambassadors, so they did something to spark conversation among these special families. Beginning in 2003, and continuing through today, the ladies began presenting each house with a state-themed pillow. The pillows, made by a Petaluma, California, company called Cat Studio, are hand embroidered and include interesting places and things unique to each state. There is even a Germany pillow for the two houses in Landstuhl, Germany, and a United Kingdom pillow for the Fisher House in Birmingham, U.K. When Carmel and Terrell Swan, owners of Cat Studio, learned about the network of Fisher Houses and how their pillows were being given as gifts to each house, they told Fisher House Foundation that they would be honored to donate the pillows to each new house.

Corporate and Foundation Giving Sprint Salutes Members of the Armed Forces Through its Sprint Works Program, Sprint has been offering savings to active duty, reservists and veterans, and, now, it is doing even more. Sprint will donate $30 to Fisher House Foundation for all new military and veteran accounts activated through Oct. 1, 2018. Fisher House is honored to work with Sprint and its mission of supporting the Armed Forces during their military and civilian lifecycle. To learn more about the program, please visit



TEAM FISHER HOUSE MOO-RAH! Story by Gillian Gonzalez

In 2007, at 55 years old, retired Air Force Col. Regis Canny decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon. In 2008, he wanted to run it again, but the race was sold out. He decided to join a charity team, and, luckily, he decided to raise funds and awareness through Team Fisher House. In 2017, to celebrate a decade with the team, Regis set a fundraising goal of $8,649, to bring his grand total of funds raised to $50,000. Not only did he surpass his goal, he was also the top individual fundraiser for the year. Regis is now an enthusiastic and successful fundraiser with a passion for telling Fisher House’s story, but it wasn’t always that way. In his first year, uncomfortable asking for donations, he paid the fundraising requirement himself. Along the course, a team member came to the rescue when he needed it most, and Regis realized, this was the team for him. Regis would invest his time in fundraising as well as in training for the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon. Starting small, he sent out emails to a few select friends. That email group has grown through the years, just like Regis’ commitment to the team. In his own words, “With Team Fisher House, I know that every step I’m running benefits these people who have been making a true contribution, not only risking their lives, but being separated from their families. That’s what drives me.” He became the first teammate to run a “superfecta,” running in all four of the military races Team Fisher House took part in at the time, and he coined the catchphrase, “Moo-Rah,” a term that has become familiar to everyone on the team and can now be seen on the backs of the spirit squads lining the race course, ringing their cowbells and cheering on the team. At a Fisher House, families become friends and care for each other during a time of a medical crisis. Team Fisher House is a family too. Year after year, teammates return to raise funds and awareness, welcoming new members and catching up with ones they’ve not seen since the last Army Ten-Miler or Marine Corps Marathon. They answer each other’s questions, share training experiences and fundraising tips, and encourage one another to go the distance. Regis is a huge part of that family experience. If you see a guy running with his cow hat on and wearing a yellow Team Fisher House jersey with Moo-rah! on it, say “Hi” to Regis.

CORPORATE SPONSOR FEATURE: PepsiCo Products Donated to Support Team Fisher House Fundraisers At the Team Fisher House finish-line tent, Army Ten-Miler and Marine Corps Marathon Team Fisher House fundraisers are greeted by family, friends, volunteers and Fisher House staff. To help runners rehydrate and recover, PepsiCo Inc. donates an array of Gatorade, Aquafina and Starbucks Frappuccinos, along with Quaker, Tropicana and Frito-Lay products. Historically, PepsiCo has gone the extra mile to support our men and women in uniform. Since 2008, PepsiCo’s Military Sales program has sponsored Team Fisher House as both an official Team Hospitality Champion, donating products; and as a Corporate Champion, donating funds. PepsiCo’s donated snacks and drinks have been supplied to more than 5,000 team members and their families throughout their years of their support. This year, the Aquafina logo will be seen again on Team Fisher House hats, allowing runners to highlight PepsiCo’s support. To learn more about how your company can become a Team Fisher House Corporate Champion, please contact THE PATRIOT • VOLUME 9 • ISSUE 1 • 2018


Hearts in the Community Corporate and Foundation Giving Fisher House Foundation is the beneficiary of many generous gifts. Here we highlight companies that continue to support the Fisher House program.

Proud Supporters SAP Rides for Fisher House On a brisk fall day at SAP’s North American headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, over 100 motorcyclists gathered to participate in the company’s Annual Ride for Veterans. Bikers rode 90 miles from Newtown Square to the Harley Davidson plant in York. The ride, the brainchild of a small group of SAP employees, has grown each year that the event has been held. In the event’s first year, 29 employees participated; this year, 100-plus people were in attendance, drawing participants from as far away as Florida. After riders departed, staff members and their families stuffed more than a thousand bags of snacks and toiletries, and then personally delivered the donations to the Fisher Houses in Pittsburgh; Washington, DC; and throughout Maryland. Approximately 800 miles away from the Newtown Square location, employees at the SAP offices in Downers Grove, Illinois, joined the annual event, riding to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Staff and families once again volunteered their time to fill bags of snacks and toiletries to support the Fisher Houses and deliver them to Fisher Houses located at the Hines VA in Illinois and the Zablocki VA in Wisconsin. These events reflect the great sense of community engagement that SAP employees have — just one of the many ways SAP supports Fisher House.

Raising the Flag In November, Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys dedicated a 160-foot flagpole and a vast American flag in honor of our veterans. The event was held at its office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was not only a celebration for Veterans Day, but also coincided with the Marine Corps’ 242nd birthday. Speakers at the event included Southern University history professor Dr. Breaux, who spoke about the U.S. flag’s history; U.S. Army veteran Joshua Wells, who shared his life-changing story; and Denise Dolan, chief advancement officer at Fisher House Foundation, who spoke about the impact a Fisher House has for military families. Gordon and his team more than doubled their original goal, raising over $100,000 for Fisher House Foundation, including a matching donation of $25,000 from the firm. Thank you to Gordon and his dedicated staff!





At Fisher House Foundation, we have the support of community groups throughout the country who support their local Fisher House or raise funds and awareness for a future Fisher House in their area. Here are some highlights.

Dayton, OH

Fisher/Nightingale Houses Inc., Wright-Patterson AFB (and future Dayton VA Medical Center) Veterans’ organizations are some of the best supporters of Fisher Houses. After all, their mission is to support veterans, and the Fisher Houses are a perfect “marriage.” On Aug. 19, members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Chapter 12-1, came to the Dayton VA Medical Center — site of a future Fisher House — to present a $40,000 check from this year’s annual fundraiser. The chapter has been supporting Fisher Houses for years through donations from its annual rides. This contribution brings the group’s total donations to the Dayton-area Fisher Houses to $120,885.

Friends of Fisher House Inc.

West Palm Beach, FL

West Palm Beach Fisher House established a community partnership with the NHL Florida Panthers this past year. They received a $25,000 Community Champion grant from them, which helped complete a major kitchen renovation (and flooring from the kitchen through the dining room and foyer) at the West Palm Beach house. The kitchen just reopened in December.

West Haven , CT Community Group Close Up: Attorney Kevin E. Creed, Major United States Army (Retired) & Director of Friends of Fisher House Kevin Creed joined the military out of high school, then returned to his home state and served as a Connecticut state trooper for four years. He returned to active duty upon being offered a commission as a United States Army Officer with assignment to flight school. For the next 23 years, he served as an attack helicopter pilot and was recognized for his success during four commands tours. Upon retirement, he earned a J.D. from DePaul College in Chicago. After working for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, he returned to Connecticut and entered private practice.

For nine years, Kevin has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funds to help construct Connecticut’s first Fisher House at the West Haven VA Medical Center. He was among the first in the community to support the concept, was on the shovel line at the groundbreaking last year and was proud to help cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the new Fisher House. Says Kevin, “It has been a long journey, but we are only just getting started. Now that this beautiful home is finished, the Friends of Fisher House Connecticut are thrilled to be able to support the families staying there.”

After Sep. 11, Kevin returned once again to active duty and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Retiring for a second time, he now operates the Creed Law Firm out of Bristol, Connecticut.

From all of us at Fisher House Foundation, thank you, Kevin, for continuing to serve!

Kevin has served as director of the Friends of Fisher House Connecticut since 2009, providing for the headquarters building and the support staff for the Friends of Fisher House, Connecticut.



HOUSE ROUNDUP The Patriot always loves to check in and see what our Fisher Houses have been up to. Here, we share highlights from houses around the world, submitted by our Fisher House managers. ALASKA

JBER HOSPITAL Elmendorf AFB Alaska Sound Celebration is an all-women’s a cappella group that performed for staff and guests to kick off the holidays. Twelve ladies make up three separate quartets, and each quartet sang a selection of songs. The group came together to finish the show with classic holiday songs, which brought tears of joy to the eyes of many guests.


 OUTHERN ARIZONA VA S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM Tucson On Dec. 11, Army veteran Nick Bajema, employee and president of the Veterans Initiative at Bard Peripheral Vascular, along with fellow employees Brock Vendsel and Lee Pusateri (“Goose”), completed a 126-mile walk from Tucson to Phoenix to raise money for the SAVAHCS Fisher House. Equally involved in the march, fellow Bard employees (and veterans themselves) Matt Riley and Brittany Millet were involved in the planning of this event and in providing the much-needed resources for the three to complete this long journey. These three gentlemen began their adventure at the USS Arizona WWII Memorial at the University of Arizona and concluded at the Pat Tillman memorial statue at Arizona State University. Averaging 30 miles per day through the Arizona desert—battling blisters, dealing with traffic and sometimes getting a little off their route— they completed the 20


journey Dec. 15 with supporters who had joined that morning to cheer them on and complete the walk. After completing the walk, the group took a few more steps, as they were escorted to the ASU football field for pictures at the Pat Tillman statue. It was a powerful moment for all involved, and the commitment to veterans was overwhelming, signifying the deep and committed passion Bard and its employees, as well as their families, have to helping veterans in all aspects of their lives. At the post-walk celebration lunch provided by Bard at a local restaurant, a check presentation of $36,000—the grand total of donations received— was made to SAVAHCS Fisher House Manager Kelly Laurich.


SAN DIEGO NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER San Diego The crew of the submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757) volunteered their time to clean the exteriors of both San Diego Fisher Houses. From scrubbing patio furniture to washing windows and raking leaves, our houses look shiny and beautiful! #TwiceStrong


WASHINGTON DC VA MEDICAL CENTER Washington, DC Congratulations to Stacey Childs, manager of the DC VA Fisher House, on earning an Excellence in Action recognition. One family wrote to say: “We are grateful and humbled by the professionalism, hard work and dedication of Ms. Childs and her staff. … They go out of their way to ensure veterans’ and families’ needs are met while caring for a sick family member.” Congratulations, Stacey, from your Fisher House family. The Washington DC VA Medical Center Winterhaven Homeless Stand Down was a huge success. There were over 840 veterans that were offered medical, consultative, general health screening, psychosocial, and support services in our facility. The Fisher House management graciously welcomed a delightful tour by our secretary of veterans affairs, Dr. Shulkin, to our beautiful “home away from home” DC VA Fisher House. Dr. Shulkin greeted and met some of our Fisher House families, who shared their sincere gratitude for having a home of comfort during their loved one’s hospitalization.


JAMES A. HALEY VETERANS’ HOSPITAL Tampa When Joe Battle became the director of the James A. Haley VA Hospital, little did he think one of the youngest “constituents” under his care would be 2-year-old Adrian Komen. But little Adrian is very much a part and parcel of life in the hospital as he visits his daddy, US Army Sgt. Alex Komen Kandagor, in the hospital’s polytrauma unit. Adrian and his mother are guests in the Tampa Fisher House as they support Sgt. Kandagor’s recovery, and Adrian exudes an enthusiasm and energy level only a toddler can claim. When not busy charming the medical team or tugging at the heartstrings of other Fisher House guests, Adrian is the man of the hour, as seen here receiving the hospital’s challenge coin from Battle during a Fisher House special event.


HINES VA HOSPITAL Hines I recently got to know a young gentleman who will become a staple volunteer at my house. He is a Marine who served three combat tours. A horrible accident in 2015 left him in a coma for four months. His family stayed at the St. Louis Fisher House and then at the Minneapolis VA Fisher House for approximately six months during his hospitalization and rehab. He does have a traumatic brain injury, but has learned how to talk and walk quite well, despite his injuries. His family is local here at Hines, and he and his mother are now volunteers at Hines Fisher House and cook meals in order to give back. He recently spoke at PepsiCo’s Veterans Day event to share how Fisher House helped his family during his recovery. It all comes full circle — they were helped in their time of need, and now they want to help our families in time of need. THE PATRIOT • VOLUME 9 • ISSUE 1 • 2018



BLANCHFIELD ARMY COMMUNITY Fort Campbell The Fort Campbell Fisher House is very fortunate to have friends throughout the country. The Texas Rho Chapter (Baylor University, Waco) of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity has been supporting our home since the beginning. They raise funds at their annual Kim Orlando Golf Invitational in memory of their fallen brother. Lt. Col. Kim Orlando was the battalion commander of the 716th Military Police when he was killed in Iraq in 2003. His fraternity brothers continue to support our home today, and we are ever so grateful!

Schwarz was passionate about off-roading in his prized Jeep. The celebration at Joint Base Andrews included a procession, driven by members of the Joint Base Andrews community, of a dozen Jeeps sporting American flags. LCPl. Schwarz’s mother, Pam, was in attendance and escorted by members of Marine Transport Squadron, VMR Andrews, 4 MAW. The rocking horse was gifted to be enjoyed by the children who stay at the house.

WALTER REED NATIONAL MILITARY MEDICAL CENTER Bethesda On Dec. 21, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano and his wife spent a few hours at the NSA Bethesda, home of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Fisher Houses with the staff, residents, service members and families. He stated he was grateful for the wonderful care the service members and families received. They spoke with members from all services stationed around the globe.




return; that was the date her husband would have his surgery. Mrs. Eddy smiled and said, “Yes, Vanniecia, Don is going to get his surgery and boy has God blessed us.” I thought to myself, having surgery doesn’t seem like a good thing, and I couldn’t help but to say it aloud: “Mrs. Eddy, why is that a good thing?” She replied, “No, not the surgery.” She went on to explain that every time they came for a doctor’s visit, the doctor would find something else wrong with Don. I thought to myself, how could she have such a positive outlook or even consider that she was blessed with the list of ailments she just rattled off. She continued on, “Well, you see, he also has Alzheimer’s, and, well, Vanniecia, just looking at him, you wouldn’t think anything was wrong. He’s always smiling and just going on with life.” I had to admit, of the many times they’ve checked into the Fisher House, he’s always had a smile on his face. Mrs. Eddy believed that God allowed her husband to have Alzheimer’s so that he wouldn’t worry about all the things that were going on with him physically. God blessed Mrs. Eddy to have a lasting memory of her husband with a loving smile on his face, and that helped her to get through the rough times. As we ended our conversation, she looked at me and said, “This place also makes Don smile, and it makes me smile too, and this also is a blessing from God.”

Andrews AFB The Joint Base Andrews Fisher House was gifted a Patriotic pony in memory of Lance Cpl. Michael Schwarz from Carlstadt, New Jersey. Lance Cpl. Schwarz was killed in action Nov. 27, 2006, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Patriotic ponies are lovingly handcrafted by Scott and Trish Snyder of Mantua, Ohio, and gifted to Fisher Houses in memory of a fallen hero. Each pony is special, and Scott and Trish, founders of Hero’s Rock, work with the families to try to incorporate things that were important to the hero, and each includes an etched portrait of them.





ST. LOUIS VA MEDICAL CENTER St. Louis Mrs. Shirly Eddy stopped by the office to let me know that she and her husband, Don, were preparing to check out. I asked if she knew when she would be back. She looked at me and quickly responded with the date they would

Albany We would like to recognize a group of local business volunteers who stepped up in a huge way to assist us. Recently, our Fisher House took on a new resident of sorts in the form of a 600-plus pound granite eagle statue. Faced with the daunting logistics of moving the statue to its home on the grounds, we reached out to our friend Tim Doherty, the branch manager

of our local United Rentals, for advice. Without hesitation, Tim spearheaded the project as a volunteer initiative. He then enlisted the resources of his own company and brought in tremendous support from the folks at BBL Construction and American Iron. This team of all-stars not only provided the manpower to move the eagle, but also built a support system to keep it securely in place in its new home. Our hardworking crew included: Tim Doherty, Carl Burnham, Charlene Chase, Derek Gavin and Dominic Higgins from United Rentals; Dave Cerutti and Tony Dumura from BBL; and Mike Hoy, Chip Korowajczyk and Jeff Dunkee from American Iron. We salute you all for your efforts! NEW YORK

and even some that aren't. But nothing topped the towering lit Christmas trees, which served as shining centerpieces in our common areas. Not a day went by that our visitors and families did not remark on how lovely the decorations looked and how thankful they were to have such wonderful holiday cheer while away from home. There may be no place like home for the holidays, but based on our feedback, the Cincinnati Fisher House was second best.


VA NORTH TEXAS HEALTH CARE SYSTEM Dallas Dallas Fisher House received a large toy donation from the Walmart Distribution Center in Dallas. Employees at Walmart Distribution Center continue a five-year tradition of collecting new toys for Fisher House children.


CAMP LEJEUNE NAVAL HOSPITAL Camp Lejeune Biogen, the world’s oldest independent biotechnology company, hosted the Camp Lejeune Fisher House at its recent Veterans Network meeting. The meeting allowed veterans who work for Biogen to learn about what a great resource Fisher House is, as well as ways that they could support their fellow brothers and sisters in arms here in North Carolina. After the meeting, the group decided to raise money for our Fisher House and purchase a new grill for our back patio.


CINCINNATI VAMC Cincinnati For the past four years, volunteer groups throughout the community have visited the Fisher House at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and transformed our stately manor into a vibrant winter wonderland as part of our annual Adopt-a-Room decoration event. Each group was assigned specific rooms to decorate for the holidays, and the results were stunning. Seemingly overnight, suites were filled with ornaments, lights, garlands, wreaths, nutcrackers and every other holiday decoration imaginable —


VA PORTLAND HEALTH CARE SYSTEM Vancouver, WA Active Duty Coast Guardsman Jeremyah and Navy veteran Sondra George stayed at the Portland VA Fisher House when their newborn son, Will, was hospitalized at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. After being relocated to Portland, they now volunteer at the Fisher House, hosting meals for guests once a month. Even with their daily struggles, they continue to take time on a regular basis to support Fisher House families. They also hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year. Sondra recalls times when she “had no idea how long it would be until Will could be released from the hospital.” Ultimately, staying at the Fisher House for over two months, they came to know nearly everyone there. Guests and volunteers not only became friends of theirs, but family as well. “While we were there, we inspired others — and were inspired by others to make it through the current trials,” says Sondra. THE PATRIOT • VOLUME 9 • ISSUE 1 • 2018




FORT BELVOIR COMMUNITY HOSPITAL Fort Belvoir Each spring, our home comes to life with the help of our friends from Ruppert Landscaping. Across our property, scores of roses, day lilies and hydrangeas bloom to bring bright colors to our families. Each week through the growing season, our team from Ruppert trims, prunes and mows to ensure our families have the best healing environment available. From the first year, the staff from Ruppert has embraced our mission — waving at the children watching from the window as they mow and cutting flowers for the ladies rocking on the porches. They have planted trees to remember family members we have lost and assisted our families with so many questions on howto projects they are planning when they return home. We are truly grateful to the Ruppert family and their employees. It wouldn’t be a beautiful day on our property without them. Thank you, Tom, Greg, Pedro, Mr. Velazquez, Joaquin, Manny and all the wonderful employees that work tirelessly to create our beautiful property.

The Portsmouth Fisher House was surprised with a catered dinner by Olive Garden from the Person and Breslin families. In September 2016, the Breslins were contacted and informed that their son was terribly ill. Carolyn Breslin, his mother, says they immediately were confronted with one of the most stressful questions when situations like this arise: Where will we stay? According to her, they were unexpectedly contacted and given a room at the San Diego Fisher House. As tears welled, all she could speak of was how much of a blessing the Fisher House program was to her family. Over a year later, that son married the love of his life here in Virginia. The Portsmouth Fisher House then became a focal point of the two families’ union. As a gift to him and his bride, a meal and volunteer hours were donated by the families honoring their togetherness. The Fisher House Portsmouth is so appreciative of the act of kindness shown to its families.


ZABLOCKI VA MEDICAL CENTER Milwaukee This holiday season, Milwaukee VA Fisher House volunteer coordinator, Kathy Schroeder crafted a Christmas tree designed to showcase our volunteers. We call it our “volun-tree,” and it was a hit with all visitors to the Fisher House. We have decided to keep the tree up year-round and decorate according to the various seasons and holidays. We are so grateful to the amazing group of volunteers that dedicate their time to the Fisher House in Milwaukee. We couldn’t ask for a better group of kind, caring and fun individuals.

FUTURE FISHER HOUSE IN DAYTON, OHIO The Dayton VA celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2017. One of its final events from 2017 was to place items in a time capsule to be buried on campus and opened sometime in the future. While there were many items in the time capsule, the VA made sure to include a few from Fisher House, including a Dayton VA Medical Center Fisher House groundbreaking program, a Fisher House pin and a picture from the construction site. Fisher House will forever be part of the fun and historic event.



Fisher House Foundation is privileged to have amazing managers at our Fisher Houses. These professionals do a wonderful job taking care of the families that call Fisher House “a home away from home.”

Wayne Walker Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center Richmond, Virginia

Story by Kerri Childress Photo by Craig Orsini

After 25 years as a combat engineer in the Army with five overseas tours, including two combat tours in Afghanistan, and after saying goodbye to dozens of men, you would think that Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne Walker would have retired and just taken it easy. But no. Serving our military, veterans and their is in his blood. Soon after retiring in 2005, he the manager of the Fisher House at the Hunter McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond,

families became Holmes Virginia.

A father of four, including a daughter who serves in the Air Force, Wayne was a military brat. “I don’t have a hometown; I was raised everywhere,” he says. “My home is where my family is, and that’s Richmond right now. I have to admit, the hours are a lot better working here than when I was in the Army.” As one of VA’s five level 1 polytrauma rehabilitation centers, the Richmond VA employs about 3,200 people, with an 8 percent growth in veteran patients each year. As a result, the Fisher House stays full. Wayne also oversees another location about a mile away, where he sends families when there is no room at Fisher House. (Richmond is on the list for a second Fisher House.)

“Every morning when I wake up, I’m eager to start the day and eager to go to work,” says Wayne. “I’m blessed to be able to help people in some of their darkest hours. They come to the Fisher House stressed, with no idea of what to do next. I want to be there for “Each family that comes here is unique, and, yet, they bond and them. I believe the kindness you show them is paying it forward.” often form close friendships,” says Wayne. “But I will never forget two families who stayed here to support soldiers who served And help he does. According to Vicki Sherbet, who stayed under me in Afghanistan.” Wayne’s eyes water as he remembers: at the Fisher House for more than three weeks, “Wayne is a “These were men who had my back in combat, and, now, they were blessing. I go straight to him when I have a problem, and it’s severely injured. I was humbled to be able to pay them back by fixed almost before I can finish telling him about it,” she said. taking care of their families. Yep, that’s a memory I hold deeply.” “I went into his office bawling one day, and he just patiently listened and talked me through the pain. He’s a true blessing.”




Charleston Fisher House, SC


Charleston Fisher House, SC

On Dec. 7, the Fisher House located at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, was dedicated. Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.), a Medal of Honor recipient, served as the master of ceremonies. We are so grateful for the support of the Charleston community, led by Trux and Durbin Emerson, friends and supporters who helped make this “home away from home” a reality for military, veterans and their families for years to come. Keesler Medical Center Fisher House II On Feb. 6, a second Fisher House was dedicated at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Keesler’s first Fisher House, an eight-suite home, remained at capacity, so a second Fisher House, a 16-suite home, was added to continue serving military, veterans and their families. Orlando Fisher House A 16-suite Fisher House was dedicated on Valentine’s Day at the newly opened Orlando VA Medical Center. Coach Lou Holtz, honorary chairman of the Friends of Fisher House Orlando helped open the beautiful new home.

r, MS ica l Cente d e M r le s e Ke

On May 4, we dedicated the Fisher House at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Stay tuned for photos in the next Patriot magazine!

S Center, M l a ic d e M Keesler 26


Orland o F ish

er House,


H her House, O is F er t en C Medical Dayton VA GROUNDBREAKING Dayton VA Medical Center Fisher House

Palo A lto Fis her Ho use, CA

In October, ground was broken for a 16-suite Fisher House in support of veterans receiving care at the Dayton VA Medical Center. Palo Alto Fisher Houses In February, Fisher House Foundation trustee Lynne Pace and her husband, General Peter Pace, the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, helped break ground on a Fisher House at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. The 20-suite Fisher House will be the second home to serve military, veterans and their families receiving care at the VA Palo Alto. Cleveland Fisher House On March 23, ground was broken on two Fisher Houses at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Each Fisher House will provide 16-suites, allowing up to 32 families to call Fisher House their home on any given night.

H Houses, O r e h is F Cleveland

Charles ton Fis he

r House , SC ica l Center, Keesler Med


Charleston Fisher House, SC THE PATRIOT • VOLUME 9 • ISSUE 1 • 2018




RANGE Fisher House Foundation is building on its commitment to help military families



JBER Hospital 4943 Zeamer Ave. 673 MDSS/SGS/FH JBER, AK 99506 (907) 222-1673 Manager: Jenny Hall

Fisher House for Families of the Fallen 220 Lajes St. Dover AFB, DE 19902 (302) 677-5317 Manager: TSgt. Dorothy Whitfield

ARIZONA Southern Arizona VA Health Care System 3601 S. 6th Ave. (9-135) Tucson, AZ 85723 (520) 838-3680 Manager: Kelly Laurich

The following projects are currently in design


or under construction:

David Grant USAF Medical Center I, II 100 Bodin Circle Travis AFB, CA 94535-1804 (707) 423-7550 fax: (707) 423-7552 Manager: Ivana Jordovic

Elmendorf AFB, Alaska (second house)

JBER Hospital

James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital Tampa, Florida (second house) James J. Peters VA Medical Center Bronx, New York (two houses) Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center Cleveland, Ohio (two houses) Dayton VA Medical Center Dayton, Ohio VA Maine Healthcare System Togus, Maine New Mexico Health Care System Albuquerque, New Mexico Huntington VA Medical Center Huntington, West Virginia

Palo Alto, California (second house)

VA Palo Alto Health Care System

VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System 11301 Wilshire Blvd. (10AF) Bldg. 523 Los Angeles, CA 90073 (310) 268-4457 fax: (310) 268-3499 Manager: Erma Mickens VA Palo Alto Health Care System 3801 Miranda Ave. Palo Alto, CA 94304 (650) 493-5000 x. 60384 fax: (650) 849-1269 Manager: Tracy Marino Naval Medical Center San Diego I, II 34800 Bob Wilson Drive Bldg. 46 San Diego, CA 92134-5000 (619) 532-9055 fax: (619) 532-5216 Asst. Manager: Lori Erickson Naval Hospital Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Building 2014 San Jacinto Road Camp Pendleton, CA 92055 (760) 763-5308 Manager: Stephanie Harrigan VA Long Beach Healthcare System 5901 East 7th St. (FH) Long Beach, CA 90822 (562) 826-5905 Manager: Lana Toenjes

COLORADO VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System 1954 Quentin St. Aurora, CO 80010 (303) 399-8020 x. 2049 fax: (303) 364-4882 Manager: Tessa Levy

CONNECTICUT VA Connecticut Healthcare System 950 Campbell Ave. Mail Code 135 West Haven, CT 06516 Manager: Amanda Salthouse 28


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Washington DC VA Medical Center 50 Irving St. NW Washington, DC 20422 (202) 745-2482 Manager: Stacey Childs

FLORIDA Bay Pines VA Healthcare System 10000 Bay Pines Blvd. Bay Pines, FL 33744 (727) 398-6661 x11350 fax: (727) 319-1106 Manager: Shentrela Diggins Eglin Air Force Hospital 350 Boatner Road Eglin AFB, FL 32542 (850) 883-2865 Manager: Marc Ambrose James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa, FL 33612 (813) 910-3000 fax: (813) 910-3088 Manager: Paula Welenc Miami VA Healthcare System 1201 NW 16th St. Miami, FL 33125 (305) 575-7260 fax: (305) 575-7261 Acting Manager: Richie Sanchez North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System 1601 SW Archer Road Gainesville, FL 32608 (352) 548-6492 Manager: Michelle Howard Orlando VA Medical Center 13800 Veterans Way Orlando, FL 32827 (407) 631-9800 Manager: Terri Turner West Palm Beach VA Medical Center 7305 N. Military Trail-Route 136 W. Palm Beach, FL 33410 (561) 422-5554 fax: (561) 442-8793 Manager: Shelley Prickett

GEORGIA Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center One Freedom Way Augusta, GA 30904 (706) 729-5773 Acting Manager: Agatha Palmer

*Please direct all correspondence to the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher House, along with the specific house address. For any questions, please contact the Fisher House manager directly at the desired location. Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center Fisher House Rd. - Bldg. 280 Fort Gordon, GA 30905-5650 (706) 787-7100 fax: (706) 787-5106 Manager: Francisco Cruz

HAWAII Tripler Army Medical Center I, II 315 Krukowski Road Honolulu, HI 96819 (808) 433-1291 x. 28 fax: (808) 433-3619 Manager: Anita Clingerman

ILLINOIS Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital 5000 S 5th Ave. Hines, IL 60141 (708) 202-7154 fax: (708) 202-7155 Manager: Holly Wright

KENTUCKY Blanchfield Army Community Hospital 652 Joel Drive Fort Campbell, KY 42223 (270) 798-8330 fax: (270) 798-8804 Manager: Wendy J. Carlston

MARYLAND Malcolm Grow Clinics & Surgery Center 1076 West Perimeter Road Andrews AFB, MD 20762 (301) 981-1243 fax: (301) 981-7629 Manager: Veronica Harris


VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System University Drive C, Bldg 33 Pittsburgh, PA 15240 (412) 360-2030 fax: (937) 656-2150 Manager: Heather Frantz



VA St. Louis Health Care System 1 Jefferson Barracks Road St. Louis, MO 63125 (314) 652-4100 x. 66945 fax: (314) 894-6147 Manager: Vanniecia Brown

NEVADA VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System 6900 N. Pecos Road North Las Vegas, NV 89086 (702) 224-6789 Manager: Cadie Franco

NEW YORK Albany Stratton VA Medical Center 113 Holland Ave. Albany, NY 12208 (518) 626-6919 fax: (518) 626-5452 Manager: Michael Fitzpatrick

NORTH CAROLINA Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune 4 Recovery Way Camp Lejeune, NC 28547 (910) 450-3885 fax: (910) 450-3887 Manager: Josie Cotton

Womack Army Medical Center Walter Reed National Military Medical 3120 Loop Road. Center I, II, III, IV, V Fort Bragg, NC 28307-5000 24 Stokes Road. (910) 432-1486 fax: (910) 432-3825 Bethesda, MD 20814-5002 Manager: Jim Dixon (301) 295-5334 fax: (301) 295-5632 Manager: Michael Ybarra


Walter Reed – Forest Glen Annex 2460 Linden Ln. Bldg. 173 Silver Spring, MD 20910 (301) 295-7373 fax: (301) 295-8012 Manager: Maurice Borde

MASSACHUSETTS VA Boston Healthcare System 1400 VFW Parkway West Roxbury, MA 02132 (857) 203-4000 Manager: Elizabeth St. Pierre

MINNESOTA Minneapolis VA Health Care System I, II 1 Veterans Drive Minneapolis, MN 55417 (612) 467-5602 fax: (612) 970-5864 Manager: Jessica Peterson



Keesler Medical Center 509 Fisher St. Keesler AFB, MS 39534-2599 (228) 377-8264 fax: (228) 377-7691 Manager: Larry Vetter

Cincinnati VA Medical Center 3200 Vine St. Cincinnati, OH 45220 (513) 475-6571 fax: (513) 487-6661 Manager: Karrie Hagan Wright-Patterson Medical Center I, II 417 Schlatter Drive Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433 (937) 257-0855 fax: (937) 656-2150 Manager: Karen Healea

OREGON VA Portland Health Care System 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. Vancouver, WA 98661 (513) 220-8262 x. 57685 Manager: Barbara Decoito-Weaver

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center 150 Wentworth Street Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 805-8200 Manager: Vicki Johnson

TENNESSEE Tennessee Valley Healthcare System 3400 Lebanon Pike Murfreesboro, TN 37129 (615) 225-5758 Manager: Becky Wood

TEXAS Brooke Army Medical Center I,II,III,IV San Antonio Military Medical Center 3623 George C. Beach Dr. Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234 (210) 916-6000 fax: (210) 916-6488 Manager: Inge Godfrey Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Bldg. 36015 Fisher Ln. Fort Hood, TX 76544 (254) 286-7927 fax: (254) 286-7929 Manager: Steve Wakefield Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center I, II, III 2002 Holcombe Blvd. Houston, TX 77030 (713) 794-8095 fax: (713) 794-7194 Manager: Frank Kelley VA North Texas Health Care System 4500 S. Lancaster Rd. Bldg 79 Dallas, TX 75216 (214) 857-2574 fax: (214) 462-4923 Manager: Lydia Henderson South Texas Veterans Health Care System 7485 Wurzbach Road San Antonio, Texas 78229 (210) 617-5300 x. 16626 Manager: Erik Zielinski

VA Salt Lake City Health Care System 690 S. Valdez Drive Salt Lake City, UT 84148 (801) 588-5900 Manager: Quinn Kiger-Good

VIRGINIA Fort Belvoir Community Hospital 9201 Woodbury Road Fort Belvoir, VA 22060 (703) 805-5203 Manager: Roxannamaria Calderon Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center 1201 Broad Rock Blvd. Richmond, VA 23249 (804) 675-6639 fax: (804) 675-5979 Manager: Wayne Walker Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth 853 Fisher Dr. Bldg. 287 Portsmouth, VA 23708 (757) 953-6889 fax: (757) 953-7174 Manager: Jill Thompson

WASHINGTON Madigan Army Medical Center I, II 9999 Wilson Ave. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA 98433 (253) 964-9283 fax: (253) 968-3619 Manager: Pamela Barrington VA Puget Sound Health Care System 1660 South Columbian Way Seattle, WA 98108 (206) 768-5353 fax: (206) 277-1415 Manager: Carrie Booker

WISCONSIN Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center 5000 W. National Ave. Bldg. 150 Milwaukee, WI 53295 (414) 384-2000 x. 44570 Manager: Jennifer Kiefer


Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center I, II, III San Antonio Military Medical Center 1445 Foster Ave. Bldg 3865 Lackland AFB, TX 78236 (210) 671-6037 fax: (210) 671-6020 Manager: Philip Harralson William Beaumont Army Medical Center Bldg 7360 Rodriguez St. El Paso, TX 79930 (915) 569-1860 fax: (915) 569-1862 Manager: Alice Coleman

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center I, II CMR 402 APO, AE 09180 (0011 49) 6371-9464-7430 fax: 011-49-6371-866679 Manager: Vivian Wilson

UNITED KINGDOM Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Mindelsohn Way Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham B15 2TH 0121-472-6217 fax: 0121-4130-6897 Manager: Patrick Hogan fisherhouse@uhb.nhs.



Fisher House Foundation Inc. 12300 Twinbrook Parkway Suite 410 Rockville, MD 20852



Because we

our heroes.

For more than 25 years, the Fisher House program has provided “a home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers. These homes provide free temporary lodging to military and veterans’ families so they can be close to their loved one during a medical crisis, allowing them to focus on what’s important — the healing process. Due to the generosity of people like you, Fisher House Foundation is able to build and help support the operation of more than 70 existing homes, the core of our mission. Additionally, our Hero Miles program assists with travel needs, and our scholarship program offers educational opportunities to military children and spouses. With your help, we will continue to meet the needs of our military community today, and long into the future. Show your love by making a donation to Fisher House. To learn more, please visit or call (888) 294-8560.

Fisher House Foundation

CFC Code: 11453

©2018 Fisher House Foundation Creative services donated by ds+f, Washington, DC | Photo courtesy of Craig Orsini.

The Patriot Magazine Volume 9 Issue 1  
The Patriot Magazine Volume 9 Issue 1