Picture this scenario: You have preschool-age children, your spouse is deployed, you’re barely making ends meet and you receive the dreaded phone call that your loved one has been severely injured.
You hop the first plane to Walter Reed with the kids. You’re in an unfamiliar city with no transportation and no one to watch your children. But you need to be in the hospital for hours on end with your spouse. What do you do?
Unfortunately this scenario is all too real. Military families received reduced-cost day care on a sliding scale based on rank, but some cannot afford even this.
That’s where the Foundation steps in, paying for on-site, quality child care for families of the wounded.
Many families at Walter Reed benefit from having their children with them during the recovery process.
The wounded and their families staying at Fisher Houses at military hospitals had access to one shared desktop computer with a dial-up modem. Spouses and parents had difficulty updating other family members around the country about the progress of their loved one’s recovery. Recovering patients weren’t able to contact their buddies in their deployed units to say they were ok and to encourage them.
The Foundation solves this problem by providing laptop computers on wireless networks for each family staying at Fisher Houses around the country. Some of the laptops are outfitted with voice recognition software for those who cannot use a keyboard. Each family keeps the laptop while they stay at the Fisher House and turns it in when they leave for the next family to use.
The first laptop network was given to the Fisher Houses at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in 2005. Since then, laptops have been donated to the houses at Tripler AMC in Honolulu; Wilford Hall AMC at Lackland AFB and Brooke AMC at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio; Darnell AMC at Fort Hood, Texas; Womack AMC at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; the Intrepid Center at Brooke AMC and the Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
Since April 2003, Walter Reed AMC has treated more than 6,000 patients from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Among this group are many cancer patients diagnosed during their deployment. Those who choose to live out their final days at WRAMC had few options for a place to spend special time with their families. Bathrooms were not often easy to access for the physically stressed. There was no area for a family member to sleep except in a bedside chair.
Our answer was to construct a hospice/palliative care suite at the hospital. Ladonna Somers and her husband Michael, an Army sergeant who died of cancer at the hospital in December 2004, were our inspirations. Basil Walter and Seiko Obayashi of the New York architectural firm Basil Walter Architects generously donated their time and skills to design the needed rooms.
The rooms were formally presented to WRAMC on January 22, 2007. We owe thanks to the many donors, including active duty and retired military personnel from all over the world, Health Net Federal Services, the George Washington chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army and many more.
Michael Somers' family (right) in whose honor the hospice was constructed; Basil Walter and Seiko Obayashi (middle and left), the project architects.
The Foundation receives referrals from the command, groups working with soldiers and their families, military relief societies and associations regarding wounded service members who are experiencing financial crises. The Foundation reviews these requests to insure they are truly “unmet needs” which cannot be supported by government agencies. Then we take action.
A few examples of how Military Heroes® has helped:
Santa thanks a soldier, holding a toy for his son, for his service to our country. Party at the Mologne House/GW Chapter of AUSA & Foundation
The Foundation partners with the George Washington chapter of AUSA and the Association of Military Comptrollers to hold holiday celebrations each year at Walter Reed.
Holidays can be stressful, especially for those already dealing with injury, illness and being away from home. That’s why, during the Christmas and holiday seasons, the Foundation works with our valued partners to hold celebrations for the soldiers, their spouses, parents, partners and children.
Families come together to sing carols before dinner. Christmas dinner at the Walter Reed Fisher House/ASMC and the Foundation
The Foundation has worked with the George Washington chapter of the Association of the US Army to hold a party at the Mologne House, a residential hotel at Walter Reed for outpatients and their families. The third annual party on December 12, 2007 was a lively affair. Marines brought Toys for Tots gifts and handed them to Santa to present to the children who climbed on his lap. The Army’s string quartet and the Old Guard’s Fife and Drum Corps played with soldiers often singing along to carols. A girl scout troop from New Jersey made a tree and holiday cards wishing the soldiers a speedy recovery. Families received gifts and enjoyed delicious cakes. More than 250 guests celebrated their strong connection to our country and to their comrades.
On December 17, the Foundation partnered with the American Society of Military Comptrollers to hold the fourth annual Christmas dinner at the Fisher House at Walter Reed. Chaplain Doug Carver (MG) and his wife Sunny sang carols and played the guitar for the residents in the house’s living room. Then all moved to the dining room for an elegant dinner of beef tenderloin served by volunteers from ASMC and the Foundation. Santa presented gifts to everyone and conversations lingered into the evening.