Fisher House Honors Airlines' Support to Families
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
MILWAUKEE, Sep. 15, 2004 The wife of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman praised five U.S. airlines for their support to families of wounded troops during a Sept. 14 award ceremony here.
Mary Jo Myers, wife of Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen.
Richard B. Myers, addresses members of the National Defense Transportation
Association Sept. 14 in Milwaukee during the organization's annual conference.
Myers hosted an award ceremony for five U.S. airlines that donated free tickets
as part of a Fisher House program for families to visit their hospitalized
wounded servicemembers. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I'm just delighted and very honored to be here to thank the participating airlines in this partnership program," Mary Jo Myers said. "I think this program really attests to the generosity and to the compassion of the American people and American businesses.
"I especially thank the Fisher House Foundation for affording me the opportunity to be here tonight." Myers is a Fisher House volunteer and made the presentation at the National Defense Transportation Association's annual conference.
Representatives from Northwest, Southwest, and Delta airlines were on hand to receive Fisher House Patriot Awards from Myers, . Independence Air and American Airlines, James D. Weiskopf, vice president for communications at Fisher House added, will receive their awards later.
The airlines were recognized for providing free tickets to families of wounded and injured servicemembers so that they could be reunited with loved ones," Weiskopf explained. Fisher House, he said, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting U.S. service members and their families.
Weiskopf said there are 26 Fisher Houses adjacent to military medical centers and six houses near Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Families of hospitalized servicemembers stay in furnished Fisher House-provided living quarters while they are visiting.
"It's a complete support network so that the family can focus their attention on their loved one in the hospital," Weiskopf said.
Since January, about 500 airline-donated tickets have been provided to servicemembers and their families, Weiskopf said. He estimated that represents about $300,000 in donated tickets.
Myers recalled during her address that the genesis of the program was kindled last fall when she and her husband, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, visited wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
"I was especially touched by the story of a mother who was there to be with her son who was undergoing surgery for an amputation of his leg," Myers said. "She was the widowed mother of four children and also a kindergarten teacher. She had come to welcome her son home from Germany as well as being there for his surgery."
But the mother couldn't stay long, Myers noted, because it was the beginning of the school year and she had to return for her classes.
"That one trip that she was awarded by the government had already been used," Myers remarked, noting the woman's son was due for many more months of hospitalization.
Myers said she learned of many other, similar stories and that the government could fund only two trips so that families could visit with wounded troops.
She and others realized there was a need to find a way to provide multiple airline trips for family members to visit with their wounded loved ones, noting "the presence of spouses, children and parents of these brave, young heroes was a key" in their healing process.
"Fisher House," Myers pointed out, "turned this concept into reality."
Praising Fisher House and "those airlines that we honor tonight," Myers extended her "very heartfelt 'thank you' for coming to the aid of these military members in their time of need."