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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 278-99
June 04, 1999

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM S. COHEN ON DEATH OF ZACHARY FISHER

The death of Zachary Fisher, an American patriot, is a great loss to this country and the Department of Defense.

Mr. Fisher's generosity to service members has been enduring and overwhelming and, for a private citizen, perhaps unequaled. His actions went beyond simple philanthropy - they spoke to the true needs of men and women in uniform.

Along with his wife, Elizabeth, Mr. Fisher was widely known for standing with military families in their darkest hours. In the midst of tragedies like the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and the USS Iowa gun turret explosion, the Fishers provided financial assistance to over 340 of these grieving families. They also aided servicemembers and their families who could not afford college tuition by awarding over 700 scholarships.

One of the Fishers' most enduring legacies is the 26 Fisher Houses they built around the country at major military and Veterans Administration hospitals over the past nine years. These temporary living facilities have been "homes away from home" for tens of thousands of families who could not otherwise afford local lodging while tending loved ones seriously injured or undergoing major medical procedures. Mr. Fisher also has pledged money for military child-care centers and programs for disabled children of military personnel.

Zachary Fisher shone a light on military history and helped inspire new generations of servicemembers with the Intrepid Museum, the aircraft carrier that was on the verge of being scrapped. This vessel became the foundation of New York City's Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, which hosts over 500,000 visitors annually.

Mr. Fisher's deeds stand as symbols of both our nation's support and his love for the military men and women who serve America. For these and other deeds of service, President Clinton in 1998 conferred upon Mr. Fisher the Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian award. We have lost not only a supporter, but a very dear friend. His contributions will live on, and his legacy will be generations of gratitude from America's military community.