By Michel Heckman
When Pamela Rudolph, a Connecticut resident, was notified that her son-in-law, a Soldier based at Fort Hood, had died, her first thought was “How do I get there and where can I stay?”
Fort Hood’s Fisher House was the answer to the last part of her question.
“They’ve had everything: food, beds, drinks, games and even a library full of inspirational books. We haven’t wanted for anything,” Rudolph said Sept. 30, as she and three other family members ate ice cream and cake during a celebration of what would have been the 100th birthday of Zachary Fisher, who died in 1999.
Fisher and his wife, Emily, provided financial assistance to more than 340 grieving families after the 1983 terrorist attack on the Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon. They also provided scholarships for more than 700 military dependents.
Located at military installations and Veterans Administrations worldwide, Fisher Houses provide temporary housing for active-duty military personnel, veterans and their families while Soldiers are undergoing medical treatment at a nearby facility or for bereavement.
“Mr. Howard and the Soldiers have been wonderful and this house has given us an amazing feeling of peace and calm. Without this opportunity we would have had to stay at a local hotel and incurred all of the expenses to do that,” she added.
Isaac Howard has been the local Fisher House manager for the past 11 years. Formerly an NCO Club manager, Howard said, “This has been the best thing that ever happened to me: serving Soldiers and taking care of their families.”
Also attending the birthday party, Sgt. 1st Class Santiago Mascorro, 3rd Brigade Troops Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said, “I just wanted to come by and thank Isaac for all he’s done for the unit’s families and Soldiers.”
Mascorro said family members of four of the brigade’s Soldiers have stayed at the Fisher House during the past 18 months.
No birthday party would be complete without gifts and, although they weren’t wrapped, a semi-trailer truck delivered a load of them. Gifts donated by Wal-Mart stores included apartment-sized refrigerators, sheets, towels and drapes for the seven rooms available for guests.
“This is just one act in a continuing relationship. We want to be increasingly involved with the communities we serve,” Jeffrey Lohse, a Wal-Mart fleet safety manager, said.
In the past, he added, the company’s truck drivers have collected donations from stores statewide including the umbrellas and patio furniture outside the Fisher House. The gifts accumulated at the company’s Palestine warehouse before being delivered before the birthday party.
Although contingent upon completion of the new medical center and available funds, plans for the Fort Hood Fisher House include possible construction of a 21-room facility.
“Once the new hospital has been completed we’ll need more rooms to take care of our Soldiers and their families,” Howard said.
The Fort Hood facility is one of 26 Fisher Houses nationwide. To increase awareness of its services, Howard began briefing unit commanders and their troops.
“I just wanted to be sure they know what is available to them and how we can help their families,” Howard said.
In addition to relying upon donations from individuals and businesses, he added, as much as 80 percent of the local budget is derived from funds of the Combined Federal Campaign. Donors can designate that the Fisher House Foundation or an individual Fisher House be the beneficiary of their charitable contributions.
In addition to military families, the house occasionally hosts military and civilian dignitaries.
“You never know who will ring the doorbell next,” Howard said. Visitors have included former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, who was a guest following the shootings on post last November.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski