By Richard Weir
Retired Army 1st Sgt. Rick Haddad attributes the use of his left arm and leg, both severely injured by shrapnel from a suicide bomber in Iraq four years ago, to the Fisher House that gave his mom a place to stay while he recovered nearby at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“Healing is a joint effort and the Fisher House is an enabler of that. ... No family has ever entered the Fisher House because they want to be here,” the 44-year-old father of three from Natick said yesterday during a ceremony at Fisher House Boston, located on the campus of the VA Medical Center in West Roxbury, on whose board he now serves.
“The healing of the family is just as important as the healing of the veteran,” Haddad continued. “My mother got to go to therapy with me every day because of the Fisher House. Without her being there I probably wouldn’t have my left arm or left leg right now.”
Fisher House Boston — one of 58 in the U.S. and Germany — serves as a sanctuary and 20-room guest house where those coping with the trauma of a loved one wounded in war can stay at no charge.
Yesterday, on the eve of Veterans Day, the stately brick facility unveiled a sculpture in its new Healing Garden created by a veteran wounded in Iraq with the help of students from Worcester Technical High School.
“Whoever may look on this piece and say, ‘Hey, that gave me calm, that gave me peace,’ then I have achieved my goal,” William R. Kleinedler, 47, of New Braintree, said of his artwork, a 12-foot-tall piece of twisting wire adorned with copper leaves and butterflies, which evokes a tree growing from a granite block.
Kleinedler told an audience of several dozen vets, including three Medal of Honor recipients, of the 2006 day when an improvised explosive device blew up the military truck he was driving, killing three of the five crew aboard. Kleinedler, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve, escaped but was badly burned. A lifelong artist, he said he designed the sculpture to inspire hope.
“The sculpture is called ‘Integro.’ It’s a Latin word; it means to begin anew, to start over, and that is befitting of what happens here at the Fisher House,” Kleinedler said.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicolas Van Landeghem, 29, of Rindge, N.H., whose wife, three daughters and mom have stayed at Fisher House Boston while he recovers from a noncombat spine injury that has left him paralyzed, finds the garden reassuring.
“It’s like a big hug,” Van Landeghem said. “It looks like two arms extending out embracing you, letting you know you’re going to be OK.”
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski