By Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright
A little girl, dolled up in pink, ran up and down the hallways, smiling and giggling to herself as she greeted everyone she met. In the dining area, her mother sat, watching her with a vigilant eye and a smile. "She wouldn’t be able to enjoy herself like this if we were cooped up in a hotel room."
The mother-daughter duo are at the newly constructed Fisher House aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, but why they are there, along with other families across the country, is far more important.
"On June 6 of this year, my son was shot in the head while deployed to Afghanistan," said Yevon McClelland, a current tenant of the Fisher House. "Due to his injury he now needs supervision and help to get him through the day."
McClelland and her granddaughter are one of a possible 12 families occupying the Fisher House, lodging in the same room as their son as he undergoes treatment at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. The idea of the Fisher House is for families to be able to be closer to their loved ones while they undergo treatment, all free of charge, but McClelland has taken it a step further by helping her son through everyday routines.
"They removed part of his skill cap to relieve the pressure and the left side of his body is weak," said McClelland. "With his right arm occupied with the cane, I help with any lifting and make sure nothing happens where he might worsen his condition."
In 1988, Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher created the Armed Services Foundation, an organization which provided financial assistance to service members and their families in need. This eventually led to the Fisher House initiative in 1990, when the first house was built in Portsmouth, Va.
"I was in the turret of an (amphibious assault vehicle) when we started receiving fire," said Lance Cpl. Joshua Keel, son of McClelland and current patient of Wounded Warrior Battalion - East. "We returned fire and all of a sudden I felt really dizzy. I thought to myself, ‘I just hit my head,’ but the next thing I knew I was waking up in (National Naval Medical Center Bethesda)."
From Bethesda onward, Keel’s mother accompanied him through every step in his recovery process, providing him with a familiar, caring face in the whirlwind of a rapidly-altered life. It was not until they came to Lejeune that his daughter was finally able to join him as well.
"Having a family member there for you is one of the best things for speeding up the healing process," said Keel. "They’re always there to help you along, regardless of what you need done."
McClelland and Keel are just one of the many families that currently reside in the Fisher House. Regardless of the differences in injuries, the families and loved ones are there for the same reason; to support those who need them by their sides.
"(It is like) when they’re younger and they hurt themselves, they go running to mommy or daddy," said McClelland. "They just need that little touch of home to get them through."
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski