By Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley announced Jan. 27 during a Pentagon ceremony that the next Fisher House will be established on Dover Air Force Base, Del.
The house will provide lodging for families coming to the base to witness dignified transfers of their loved ones' remains at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center there.
It will open in the fall 2010.
"What a generous way to support those in the greatest need; those whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice and have given their lives to defend our nation," Secretary Donley said.
The newest Fisher House will be adjacent to the Center for the Families of the Fallen which opened at Dover AFB earlier this month.
"Co-locating these facilities will provide significant synergies and allow the staffs to work together to better care for, serve and support families while at Dover," said Col. Bob Edmondson, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center commander.
The secretary said the Fisher homes "are a godsend to military families in need."
Currently, Fisher homes host more than 12,000 families each year.
Families have stayed nearly three million days free of charge at Fisher homes, saving participants at least $120 million in lodging, food, and transportation costs, the secretary said.
"This generosity is topped only by the warmth and compassion of the environment the highly trained Fisher House staff and volunteers create for our military families," he said.
The ceremony in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes presented the 2008 Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award to Nancy Berglass. She is the lead consultant of the Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund.
For more than three years, Ms. Berglass' work has benefitted 2 million servicemembers and their families, the secretary said. Since 2006, the IADIF has granted more than $240 million to "nonprofits that serve those affected by deployments."
Ms. Berglass also helped several nonprofit organization improve services, establish new connections between granters and military agencies, and expanded her fund's strategy to include research, public awareness, and veterans' advocacy, the secretary said.
In addition, the honoree was one of the key players in founding the Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, a nationwide partnership of veteran support organizations, Secretary Donley said.
The first Fisher House opened June 24, 1991, at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. The homes are named for their founder, New York real estate businessman and philanthropist Zachary Fisher. He established the Intrepid Museum Foundation to save the World War II aircraft carrier from the scrap yard and creating the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, the world's largest naval museum.
Secretary Donley said the idea for the homes came to Mr. Fisher 20 years ago.
"Back in 1990, having already established both the Intrepid Museum Foundation and (the Fisher) foundation to provide financial assistance to military families, Zack Fisher was looking for yet another way to support the military," Secretary Donley said.
Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Carlisle Trost, passed along his wife Pauline's idea to build temporary lodging adjacent to military hospitals, the secretary added.
"Just eight months later, Zack opened the first Fisher House at Bethesda, followed by one at Walter Reed a month later," Secretary Donley said. The first Air Force Fisher House opened at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
The Air Force has eight Fisher homes. There are now three at Wilford Hall, two at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and one each at Keesler AFB, Miss., Travis AFB, Calif., and Joint Base Andrews, Md.
All Fisher homes have been donations from the Fisher Foundation to the Department of Defense.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski