By Chrsitin Michaud
The Fisher House for Families of the Fallen has hosted more than 1,100 family members since it opened just over a year ago.
The house, the first of its kind, was gifted to the Air Force on behalf of the Fisher House Foundation in a dedication ceremony Nov. 10, 2010.
"We couldn't be more grateful to the Fisher House Foundation for gifting our families of the fallen with a private lodging sanctuary so we could support them on-site," said Robin Raine, Families of the Fallen Support Branch chief.
The Campus for Families of the Fallen offers everything a family may need when they travel to Dover for a dignified transfer.
She added that family members have commented on how much they appreciate having a conformable place to stay, secluded from strangers.
"I believe it has truly been a home away from home for our families, even during their darkest hour," said Raine. "The more we can take care of and provide for them, the less they have to worry about."
A stocked kitchen, courtesy of the USO, offers snacks, beverages and even meals for families staying in the Fisher House so they won't have to leave the campus if they don't want to.
The Meditation Pavilion, also a gift from the Fisher House Foundation, provides the family members staying at the Fisher House a place to go to pray, mediate, or be alone during their stay.
Families who travel from the local area who don't need lodging are able to use the Meditation Pavilion as a meeting space when they arrive at Dover prior to a dignified transfer, according to Tech. Sgt. Latersa Frazier, Families of the Fallen Support Branch noncommissioned officer in charge, who supervises the managers on duty at the Fisher House and also serves as the facility manager for the buildings on the campus.
The house managers tend to the needs of each family with the help of the chaplains and service liaisons, said Frazier.
Managers like Staff Sgt. Steven Dumbleton, a reservist from Niagara Falls, work 12-hour shifts when families are at the Fisher House.
He said the experience has been one of the most rewarding assignments and jobs in his 22 years in the Armed Forces. As an honor guard member at his home station, he's been a part of the end of the journey home for the fallen. His experience here provides a completely different perspective in honoring the fallen and their families.
"The families that come through the Fisher House become one of ours and we become one of theirs," said Dumbleton. "I have listened to stories of their loved ones and I have cried and laughed with them."
He's also played with children building blocks, coloring, watching movies and being there to listen.
"I believe this is comforting for the families," Dumbleton said. "There is no other job in the military that gives you the feeling you get when they leave and give you a hug and say thanks for everything you've done for us. My answer to them is 'It's been an honor.'"
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski