By Staff Sgt. David Chapman
Most service members and their families never want to think about what happens in the event their soldier, Marine, airman or sailor is ever injured in combat. So when it does happen life can become very hectic and chaotic.
Fortunately, there is a place where family members can go for a warm meal and a comfortable bed to sleep in, that won’t put a stress on their financial well-being.
The Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher House, located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was established to do just that, and also provide a quiet and safe place for families and also a place to listen when the stress of a serious event becomes too much.
“Basically it is a lodging location, but you have an environment in which you have people who understand and support you and can emotionally be there for you,” said Jodi Land, Fisher House business manager. “It is a comfort and healing environment. families come to take care of someone else, so someone needs to take care of them and that’s what we provide.”
The two-story, seven room brick home looks like a regular house, but inside provides a host of features and functionality for individual spouses or for families with children.
The home provides a kitchen and dining area, living room, laundry area, outdoor pavilion and fenced outdoor play area. Most amenities, including toiletries, towels, linens, kitchenware and prepaid phone cards, are provided.
But the Fisher house could not provide the resources they offer alone. The organization is provided a certain amount of government assistance, but much of its regular bills and maintenance are paid for and provided by both financial and physical donations from the communities that surround JBLM.
“We have an incredible community that wants to do something supportive for our service members who make many sacrifices for them. Monetary donations go into our operational budget. Things like the light bill, cable bill and phone bill get paid,” said Land. “One hundred percent of the donation goes to the house. Zero percent of the donation goes to overhead.”
On-air personalities, Miles Montgomery, Steve “The Thrill” Hill and The Ted Smith, of KISW’s the Men’s Room, a popular radio show out of Seattle, have fully embraced the Fisher House and donate to it annually.
“Ted Smith’s dad was the first one to put the bug in Ted’s ear about the Fisher House and his dad was a veteran so that sounded like a cool charity to help,” said Miles Montgomery, KISW Menu’s Room host. “The station does things for different organizations, but we wanted something we could be a part of and that was the Fisher House.”
The Men’s Room crew in cooperation with Elysian Brewery came together to produce a beer for those fans of the show. And through a portion of the profits, the two have been able to give more than $200,000 over the last two years to the Fisher House.
For Steve “The Thrill” Hill, also a member of the Men’s Room, being able to give to an organization that provides some piece of mind for service members and their families is simply about giving back to those who protect the freedoms they are able to enjoy.
“There are people out there fighting for people like us to do virtually nothing. And the troops are the people who do that. You have the right to live as ridiculously as we do, but it is important to pay it forward to the people who protect your ability to do so,” Hill said.“
One JBLM family was able to rely on the Fisher House recently.
“When my husband was evacuated after being injured in Afghanistan he was brought here and the Fisher House was available for me to stay at. I was just waiting on phone calls so I knew where to be, it was a stressful time,” said Melissa Siguenza, who spent three months at the Fisher House while her husband was being treated at Madigan Army Medical Center.
But for service members and their families, knowledge of the Fisher House is not always wide spread. Many never hear about the program until a serious event or emergency occurs.
“I didn’t know about the Fisher House until we actually needed it and I would like to see more people be aware that they are here. They have helped my family and so many others,” said Siguenza. “It was a place I could get a breath of fresh air and I could balance and gather myself away from the hospital. It makes you feel comfortable at a time you need peace in your life.”
For Jodi Land, the opportunity to work for an organization like the Fisher House has proven to be a special opportunity and one that allows her to reflect on the caring and kindness of JBLM and the surrounding communities.
“I can’t go home at the end of the day and say that nobody cares about the military. I can’t go home and say America doesn’t support its military families, because I see everyday hundreds of people in our community that make this possible. It’s very humbling,” Land said.
Because of donors in the communities surrounding JBLM, Melissa Siguenza and many other in similar situations, can focus on the care and recovery of their loved one without the worries of a place to rest mentally and physically.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski