Ground breaks on Fisher House for families of the fallen

  • Published
  • By Christin Michaud
  • Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center
Groundbreaking on a Fisher House at the Air Force Mortuary Operations Center here began May 1 during a ceremony with Air Force officials and community leaders.

The Fisher House, scheduled for completion in the fall, will house nine suites and serve as a place for families of the fallen to stay while at Dover Air Force Base attending a dignified transfer of a loved one.

A dignified transfer occurs when a fallen servicemember returns here and is taken from the aircraft to the AFMAO before leaving for their final resting place.

"Today we break ground on a unique facility which will support the families of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors who gave, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the last full measure of devotion," said Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force, to a crowd of more than 120 people.

The new lodging is being constructed adjacent to the Center for the Families of the Fallen.

"This facility will help fulfill the nation's sacred commitment to care for and support the families of the fallen," Secretary Donley said. "This is the Ninth Fisher House on an Air Force installation, but the first not designed to assist those battling illness or injury."

Currently, when families arrive at Dover, they are placed in local hotels and brought on base to participate in the dignified transfer. In some instances families have had to stay as far away as Philadelphia when there are no vacancies locally. Last year, approximately 2,000 relatives of fallen service members traveled to Dover.

"Our family members serve too. Their efforts make our military more effective in countless and often intangible ways," said Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff. "Therefore, there is an equal measure appropriate that we pay tribute and provide loving care, service and support to families when their loved ones have fallen."

Each Fisher House is made possible through donations. President Barrack Obama donated $250,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize money to the Fisher House Foundation, a large portion of which will be used for this Fisher House, said Kenneth Fisher, Fisher House Foundation chairman.

"Today is a very special day in the life of the Fisher House Foundation," he said. "This is our 20th anniversary year. Fisher House in those 20 years has always been focused on the healing process. This Fisher House will serve those who have made the ultimate sacrifice - these are heroes."

In just six months, this empty plot of grass and trees will be servicing families of fallen servicemembers, said Col. Robert H. Edmondson, Air Force Mortuary Operations Center commander.

"This amazing facility will be a place where compassion meets comfort, where support meets solitude, and where hurt meets hope," he said.

While the facility will never bring back a loved one, the hope is families will have a place to find comfort and solace.

"It can speak a consolation of a grateful nation that stands behind them in their hour of need," said Colonel Edmondson. "It can acknowledge that we will forever be indebted for their sacrifice."