By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
The military services chose a longtime Air Force volunteer from Florida as this year's recipient of the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award.
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley presented the award to Chris Sehman, a local businessman and owner of Helen Back Again restaurants, during a Jan. 10 ceremony at the Pentagon.
"Reading through his nomination, it's not hard to understand why his name was put forward," Donley said. "His work is a testimony of the difference one person can make ... how one person can help motivate an entire community to show that they care, and to make the lives of their neighbors just a little bit better."
Sehman distinguished himself as a local community and business leader in the Florida Emerald Coast area where he served as an Honorary Commander for the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, and the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
He has been a staunch advocate for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Wounded Warrior Program, and helped generate several hundred thousand dollars through fundraising efforts that directly benefited more than 30,000 military members and their families living and serving throughout the Florida panhandle area.
The award is named after Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, noted and much-loved humanitarians in military circles. The Fishers founded the Fisher House Foundation in 1990 to build "comfort homes" on the grounds of military and Veterans Affairs medical centers to house families of service members and veterans receiving treatment far from their homes.
"The Fisher award and its recipients have earned a special place in the hearts of every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine, and their families," Donley said. "Service members appreciate the steadfast backing of American's who have made 'support our troops' the watch words of a grateful nation."
Established in 1996, the award recognizes an individual or organization that demonstrates exceptional patriotism and humanitarian concern for members of the United States Armed Forces.
Like the Fishers, whose legacy of humanitarian efforts continues to this day, Sehman said his contributions to the military community will continue.
Comparing himself to Zachary and Elizabeth, "It reminds me I still have much more work to do for our military members," Sehman said. "On behalf of my staff and my family, I say to all who have served our country, thank you for being superheroes."
Daughter of Chairman and CEO, Ken Fisher, Crystal Fisher also attended the ceremony, paying tribute to her family's legacy, but also to Sehman for his own contributions.
"Your service is inspirational," said Fisher, adding that the words "legend" and "humbling" come to mind when describing Sehman's efforts. "If Zach and Elizabeth were with us today, they would no doubt be honored to be in your company, just as I am."
The first Air Force Fisher House opened April, 1992, at Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Since inception, the Fisher House Foundation has served more than 160,000 families and provided more than four million days of lodging, saving them more than $192 million in lodging and transportation costs. Today, 58 Fisher Houses are in operation, with five new homes under construction.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski