The Fisher House Foundation: A Home Away from Home

The Fisher House Foundation: A Home Away from Home

contributed by Liz Zaczek, Senior Staff Writer

As we quickly approach the Memorial Day weekend, the weekend where we remember and honor our country’s heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country and protecting our freedom, past and present. 


Photos of the Fisher House on July 9, 2013, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The Fisher House serves as short-term, on-base lodging facility for families of fallen service members who come to Dover AFB to witness their loved one’s dignified transfer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

Our nation’s fallen service members are given the Dignified Transfer bringing them to Dover Air Force base. The families of these fallen heros have the opportunity to be part of this solemn moment and witness the transfer. As it is the commitment of our military to bring these heros home and honor them as expediently as possible, often these families quickly pack and travel great distances to be there for these often early morning ceremonies not having time nor the energy to fully plan out the details of where to stay and eat once they’ve arrived…enter The Fisher House Foundation and specifically, the Fisher House for the Families of the Fallen.


Nearing its 10th anniversary of being a home away from home for these families the Fisher House allows these families to have one less thing to worry about during their stay. Just one of 87 Fisher Houses around the country and Europe, the foundation’s mission is to care for the families of our nation’s service members during times of medical crisis. The Fisher House for the Families of the Fallen is located within the Campus for Families of the Fallen at Dover Airforce Base. This House opens its doors to the grieving families giving them a warm, inviting and comfortable personable place to stay for free while at the base. The typical stay at this particular house is far shorter than many of the foundation’s other locations but that doesn’t mean it lacks a sense of warmth and community that is clearly present throughout the Fisher Houses. Even during solemn times, life’s more heartwarming moments still happen. 


During an interview with TSgt Michelle Johnson, current manager of the Dover location, she shared the story of a family with young children staying at the house near Halloween. Despite the reason for being there, the mother wanted her two children to have some fun at the holiday. The staff, volunteers and the surrounding community pulled together to provide costumes and trick-or-treating fun for the children. Kenneth Fisher, Chairman and CEO of the Fisher Foundation, expressed that while the House at Dover is a place dedicated to comfort and compassion during such a solemn and hard time for these families that moments of reunion and in some cases, first meetings of grandchildren and nieces and nephews happen at this location in extremely life affirming and heartwarming ways. 


I had the absolute privilege of speaking with Kenneth Fisher, Chairman and CEO,  on all things Fisher House Foundation as part of this piece. He was more than excited to share and remind me that while we are in the midst of facing a challenging time as a nation and global community that the mission of the Fisher House Foundation remains the same and is just as strong and important as ever. Operating 87 Fisher Houses throughout the USA and Europe, 30 years strong, these houses warmly welcome the families of our nation’s service members and veterans facing medical crises. Strategically located close to military and veteran  medical facilities, they open their doors to provide the families a warm, inviting and personal space to stay. They provide a sense of community and home rather than an impersonal hotel room. The stay and meals are free to these families while their loved one is receiving care.

8 Dec 2010 USAF Photo by Jason Minto.
Interiors of the Fisher House and Meditation Pavilion.

Even during this time where the buzz words are “social distance” the Fisher House is still receiving families with open, albeit somewhat different, arms. The foundation has swiftly adapted to the current climate making sure both the families staying with them and their own staff and volunteers stay healthy and safe. While these “Homes Away from Home” feature communal areas and normally provide home cooked meals served around a dining room table, right now families are given gift cards for local restaurants but are encouraged to still be part of the community and family environment the Fisher House prides itself on providing. While families might not be able to physically be in the hospital with their loved ones, devices such as Facebook Portals have been installed in rooms both in the medical centers and at the Fisher House locations allowing families to keep in touch easily throughout their stay. Several locations have even gone so far as to welcome first responders and medical center employees to a place to stay while they are displaced from their own homes. 


The Fisher House Foundation thrives with help from the local community and support from around the country. Easy ways to help the Fisher House Foundation and the families they serve include donation programs for air miles, Hero Miles,  and hotel reward points, Hotels for Heros. Individual Fisher Houses are accepting gift card donations to restaurants in their areas to give to the visiting residents. For more ways to give visit:


At the end of our conversation, I  asked Ken to share any words of wisdom or reminders to our military, veterans and their families along with all our readers  as we navigate our day to day.. As expected, his words don’t disappoint. ”It is unbelievable to think that there are men and women serving our country at risk not just from combat, but additionally, from this virus just as we all are. To them and to us all, stay strong, stay safe, make sure your family is safe, listen to what you are being told, don’t deviate, no matter what we are going through the people of the USA are very conscious of your sacrifice and we are still here today to support and honor you.” 


To learn more about the absolutely amazing mission of The Fisher House Foundation and ways to help them thrive in their mission, visit their website at


The Home of the Free Because of the Brave: Memorial Day 2019

The Home of the Free Because of the Brave


You’ve heard it said before: we are the home of the free because of the brave. Or perhaps “all gave some, but some gave all.” Or even, in the words of Lee Greenwood, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free and I won’t forget the men who died and gave that right to me!” There are countless colloquialisms, sayings, poems and songs that can be applied to Memorial Day.


An unofficial holiday that sprung from the ashes of the Civil War, Memorial Day, as we know it, came to be in 1971. The fourth Monday in May each year, today is the day we remember the soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom as Americans.


Memorial Day, for my non-military family, was about barbeques and family, laughter and fun. There was a parade that went through Rosebank in Staten Island, NY, but I don’t remember paying much attention to the reason behind the holiday. Fast forward to 2010, and I attended my first Memorial Day service in honor of a soldier who was no longer with us. My husband’s grandfather, who lived to be nearly 90, served in WWII. His son made the military a career and just a month after Grandpa left us, his little town in Northern NJ honored him and his sacrifices on Memorial Day.


It was breathtakingly beautiful and achingly heart-wrenching, all at the same time. I found myself gasping for air as they handed flowers to his daughters. I didn’t know him when he was in the service, but it didn’t matter. As they honored him that day, I couldn’t help but envision Grandpa as a young soldier, in his crisp uniform, ready to take off and storm the beaches at Normandy.


How to Properly Display Our American Flag

memday flag

By Debbie Gregory.

When there are holidays that call for flying the flag, or if you just want to express your patriotism, knowing how to properly display the American Flag is paramount to showing respect for this symbol of national pride.

While most people know that the U.S. flag should not touch the ground or be displayed if it is faded, torn or tattered, there are additional protocols that should be observed.

It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.

The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.

When displayed with another flag against the wall with crossed staffs, the U.S. flag should be to the left of those facing it with the staff in front of the other flag’s staff.

If a flag is being displayed without a staff, it should be flat with the stars to the left of the observer, or suspended with the stars in the top left to the observer.

If the flag is displayed with a group of flags, the U.S. flag should be at the center and the highest point.

The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.

The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

Now, for a little history lesson. Betsy Ross would often tell the story of a fateful day in May of 1776, when three members of a secret committee from the Continental Congress came to call upon her. Those representatives, George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, asked Ross, an upholsterer, to sew the first flag. She finished the flag either in late May or early June 1776. In July, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud for the first time at Independence Hall.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, seeking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Honoring Gold Star Families on this Memorial Day


Photo of Toni Gross volunteering at Fisher House credited to Craig Orsini

By Debbie Gregory.

During World War I, military families began a tradition of hanging a small banner in the windows of their homes. Bordered in red, the white banner had a blue star for each family member in the military. If a family member died in service, a gold star replaced the blue.

That simple gold star has become a  cherished symbol of a loved one lost. And on this Memorial Day, I would like to introduce you to a Gold Star family.

Toni and Craig Gross’s son, Frank, followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by joining the Army. On July 16, 2011, when he was just 25 years old, Frank was killed in Afghanistan by an IED.

U.S. military service members who die abroad come home through Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Toni and Craig traveled from their home in Florida to Delaware to welcome their son’s body home during the dignified transfer, a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team of military personnel from the Army, Frank’s branch of service.  A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country. A senior ranking officer of the fallen member’s service presides over each dignified transfer.

While in Dover, the family stayed at the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen. This Fisher House, and 70 others like it across the U.S., is a comfort home where military and veteran’s families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment nearby. The families of these fallen soldiers are hosted—all expenses paid—at the Dover Fisher House.

“I remember the day like it was yesterday,” Toni said. “We left our rooms and walked down a lovely garden path to the chapel that was part of the Fisher House. We prayed and then we were driven to the tarmac to welcome our son home.”

To honor her son while also giving back to other military families, Toni began volunteering at the VA Fisher House near her home in Tampa, FL. She now spends every Wednesday helping to take care of other families whose loved ones are receiving treatment for illnesses or injuries. Craig wanted to honor his son as well, so he quit his job and opened a BBQ restaurant near Tampa called “Frankie’s Patriot BBQ,” filled with military and veteran keepsakes, the most important of which are photos of Frankie in uniform. Additionally, Frankie’s BBQ provides occasional dinners at the Fisher House where Toni volunteers.

Military Connection: How to Celebrate Memorial Day 2015

9/11/2012 - Jay Janner/American-Statesman - Kimberly Mitchell weeps at the grave of her husband Chad Mitchell at the Houston National Cemetery in Houston on Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012.   Chad Mitchell, an Iraq War veteran, died of an accidental overdose in 2010.

Today is Memorial Day.

At the grocery store recently, I was in the check-out line and saw two Coca-Cola bottles, the ones that have people’s first names on them. I happened to see the names “Chad” and Mitchell” next to each other. I did a double take, because when I was in the Navy, Chad Mitchell was on my first ship. Chad was one of my best friends, and he is no longer with us.

Operations Specialist Second Class Petty Officer (Surface Warfare & Air Warfare) Chad Mitchell passed away in 2010, the result of complications from medications he was taking for PTSD and a shoulder injury that he sustained while serving in Iraq. I see reminders of Chad, as well as many others, randomly, almost every day. Usually, these reminders prompt happy memories of good times that we shared while serving together. At other times, the reminders bring on the aching feelings of loss.

On Facebook, many of my friends are also Veterans. Many of them are from military families, and I see them randomly post memories of other fallen service members throughout the year.

Today is a day to remember the men and women who died in service to their country. It is a federal holiday, and most Americans have the day off. Many families go away for the long weekend. Many stay in town and attend community events, often held at cemeteries and town civic centers. There are also a lot of smaller gatherings, such as barbeques and parties, with extended family and friends. A lot of people also hit the local mall, auto dealerships, mattress retailer, and other places for extended sales.

But whatever it is that you choose to do, or get stuck doing, please take a few moments to remember and acknowledge the lives sacrificed in service to our country, its military, and our way of life. Say a prayer, reserve a moment of silent reflection, play a song, watch a patriotic movie (or mini-series for those, like me, who love HBO’s “Band of Brothers.”) If you personally knew someone who died while in the military, please take the time to specifically remember them or share a story about them with others .

I will be attending a ceremony at a cemetery in my hometown, with many of my fellow Veterans. But I also plan on remembering Chad and other fallen shipmates, including Commander John Reggelbrugge and sharing stories about them to others that I talk to. By remembering and telling their stories, we will  ensure that their loss is mourned, that their sacrifice is honored, and that they are always remembered.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit, the go to site.

Military Connection: How to Celebrate Memorial Day 2015: By Joe Silva

Memorial Day Weekend – Giving Back to Those That Serve

Memorial Day Weekend presents us with a chance to step back from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives—from the traffic jams to the paper jams to the strawberry jam stains on our work shirts—and take a moment to thank those people providing their time and energy toward serving our country in the most demanding way. Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to take a few minutes out of our lives to do a small part in return and thank those that lend their lives to the United States.

This year, American organizations are celebrating a little more, offering special deals and discounts on a variety of activities, products and services to military service members, veterans and their families. These are just small ways that we give back to our military members who do so much for us. Here are some of the special events happening across the nation in celebration of the great deeds done by our very own men and women in uniform.

Free Museum Admission

Over 600 museums nationwide will open their doors to military members and their families for free, beginning Memorial Day Weekend and continuing throughout the summer. The free admission program is a highlight of the partnership between Blue Star Museums, Blue Star Families and the National Endowment for the Arts programs. Many museums are offering savings of $10-15 through the program. The government has offered this map to help military families locate the participating museums near them.

Free Admission to the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary served as a troop carrier during WWII for five years. It was responsible for carrying thousands of veterans back to the United States, many of which still have vivid memories of the trip. This Memorial Day Weekend, the ship will be offering free general admission to all military service members, both active duty and veteran members. General Admission will give you a self-guided tour through the ship as well as the “Ghosts & Legends” portion of the tour. Bring your military ID and head on out to Long Beach to the Queen Mary during 10AM and 6PM May 29, 30 and 31st to enjoy the discount.

Discounted Cruise Rates

Carnival Cruises is providing discounts for service members, family and friends throughout the month of May on cruises to many popular destinations, such as the Caribbean, Mexico, the Bahamas, Alaska and Canada. Reservations must be made before May 31st, 2010 and the discount applies to cruises booked between now and April 30, 2012. For more information, call 1-800-Carnival or visit their website.

10% Off at Home Depot, Lowe’s

Although Home Depot and Lowe’s have offered 10% discounts to military service members, veterans and their families in the past, beginning this year, both stores will offer the same discount every day to military members, veterans and families.

These are some small ways that regular citizens and organizations are giving back to those that give so much. There are ways individuals can give back, too.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that a great way to make a soldier’s day is to pay for his meal or just say “Thank you.” Well, this Memorial Day Weekend offers another great time to recognize the efforts of those who serve. Step out and stand in at a Memorial Day service, buy a service member a cup of coffee, make an extra effort to listen to your grandfather’s war stories without yawning—whatever you can do to give a little support to the men and women who so diligently and without question support our country, do it. The smallest contributions can mean a great deal to someone who has or is serving.

I am proud to be a part of because it is dedicated to constantly do all it can to serve our service members. It is an organization whose primary goal is to help, support and assist military members, veterans and their families to the best of its abilities, 24/7.

My contribution this Memorial Day Weekend: Calling my state representative to ask for quicker processing of veteran benefits. It’s a short order that could go a long way.

Thank you for reading.

Katy Cryns