Fort Bragg officials break ground on new Fisher House facility

By: Drew Brooks
January 22, 2014
The Fayetteville Observer

Fort Bragg's Fisher House served 278 families last year.

That includes the families of more than 80 wounded soldiers and one girl who traveled from Germany to stay at the house so she could spend Christmas with her father, a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion.

But the building at Normandy Drive and Reilly Road is due for an upgrade, officials said.

The first step to making that upgrade came Tuesday when officials broke ground on a new Fisher House that will be built between Womack Army Medical Center and the Corporal Rodolfo P. Hernandez Warrior Transition Complex.

The Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides free comfort homes for military families, said construction should begin next month.

Derek Donovan, vice president of programs and community relations for the Fisher House Foundation, said the new house was long overdue.

The Fort Bragg house was one of the first built by the organization, he said. Officials wanted to replace it about three years ago. Those plans were put on hold after the military asked that a house be built at Fort Belvoir, Va., instead, Donovan said.

"It's good to make good on that promise," Donovan said. "The need here is so great."

Donovan and Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commander of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps, were the guest speakers for Tuesday's event.

Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, a Fayetteville native and the Army surgeon general, and Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, were unable to attend because of weather.

Anderson, who is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan to lead the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, said it was good to leave with the project underway.

"It's awesome," Anderson said after directing an aide to secure a ceremonial shovel for his office. "Deploying knowing that this is happening - it's a huge burden off our shoulders."

Anderson said the current Fisher House was built for a different time.

"It is old," he said. "It's wearing a little bit."

The new house will be able to provide better services and more space for families. It also will be more convenient for families visiting Womack or the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion.

"The demand is not decreasing," he said. "It's time for an upgrade."

The original Fort Bragg Fisher House opened in 1993. Its seven rooms are frequently filled to capacity, officials said.

The new house will have 12 rooms and a new design that allows for a bigger kitchen and living and dining areas.

Later this week, another national nonprofit group will break ground on its own project on Fort Bragg. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is building its newest National Intrepid Center of Excellence.

The Fort Bragg Intrepid Spirit Center will be built between the All American Parkway and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade headquarters. A ceremony will be held Friday.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation are separate organizations, but were founded by the same family.

Anderson applauded the two organizations. He said Fort Bragg would not be able to improve its services without nonprofits and other organizations that were willing to step up and foot the bill.

"We depend on them," he said. "We can't survive without the help from them."

Corporate partners for the Fisher House include The Pantry Inc., which is contributing $528,000 that was raised during the company's Salute Our Troops campaign at Kangaroo Express stores; Wal-Mart, which is paying for the cost of families staying in Fisher House homes this year; and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity's Greater Cause Foundation, which also has pledged money for the new home. Officials from each of those organizations attended the ground breaking.