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Team Eglin Public Affairs

by Lois Walsh
Team Eglin Public Affairs

9/2/2009 – EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The time-honored tradition of celebrating promotion with a party was rewritten by five lieutenant colonels ready to pin on new rank.

When Lt. Cols. Donald Finley, Gregory McNew, Mel Petersen, Charles Greenwald, and Doug Hagen were notified of their selection to colonel, they collectively decided to give back to the community. Instead of spending money on food and drinks, they donated the party funds to the Fisher House.

The Fisher House provides free or low cost lodging to veterans and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers. Construction is currently underway across from Eglin’s Regional Hospital on Boatner Road. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for fall 2010.

Tom Rice, vice president of the Fisher House Board of Directors said the donation is a welcomed addition to their fundraising.

“In our resort area, it is difficult for families to find lodging,” Mr. Rice said. A retired First Sergeant for the United States Army, Mr. Rice said the donation is “a gift that keeps on giving.

“At military functions like dining outs, we always have a table set to one side to remember those who were not able to attend,” he said. “In the same vein, everyone is able to attend this promotion party through their donation and it is a way to honor veterans well into the future.”

Colonel Greenwald, 46th Operation Group, said the idea of donating the funds grew after difficulty with the logistics of setting up a party. Since Lt. Col. Gregory McNew was reassigned and Lt. Col. Douglas Hagen was deploying, it complicated matters.  He also said that giving back to the local community, and Fisher House, is part of the Air Force tradition of service before self.

“It got to the point where it was fairly anticlimactic as we tried to hang with tradition,” he said. “I don’t know what sparked it (the donation), but it felt a little better to me personally,” he said.

Colonel Finley, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, handled the arrangements for the official check presentation. He said donating to the Fisher House made sense.

“They need help; it’s something military related, prominent and not military funded, so it seemed like a great choice,” the colonel said.

Colonel Petersen, who is assigned to the 53rd Wing, agreed.

“We thought ‘let’s pick a good charity and it will go to a good cause,'” he said. “In the end, everyone thought Fisher House was a worthy cause and needed a boost in their resources and visibility to help put it back on peoples’ scope.”

The donated funds will be used to keep the Fisher House operational after its opening.

Fisher House opens at Eglin

Fisher House opens at Eglin
by Sachel Seabrook
Team Eglin Public Affairs

9/13/2010 – EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla — Two years and one snip of the giant scissors late r ,the Fisher House, a safe-haven for families of ill and injured servicemembers, was dedicated here Sept. 10.

Cut above
Master Sgt. David Keeley and son Zachary are surrounded by community and base leaders as Zachary cuts the ribbon, officially opening the Fisher House Sept. 10 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The new facility provides free lodging to veterans and military families receiving treatment at the base hospital or veteran’s center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sachel Seabrook.)

The new facility becomes the 47th Fisher House and is located only steps away from the Eglin hospital and veteran’s clinic. It provides free lodging to veterans and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers.

To date, the Fisher House Foundation has helped over 500,000 families.

“As impressive as that is, it’s not enough,” said foundation president David Coker.

Among those in attendance were Maj. Gen. C.R. Davis, Commander of the Air Armament Center, retired Col. George E. “Bud” Day and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller.

“They call it a house, but we all know it is much more than that. It’s a home,” said the congressman.

The Fisher House of the Emerald Coast houses 12 family suites. Nationwide, the Fisher House program has offered more than three million days of lodging to people in need.

The Fisher House program was established by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher in 1990, who dedicated more than $20 million to the construction of comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel.

The Fisher House Foundation provides “comfort homes,” built on major military instillations and VA medical centers for military personnel and their families who are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for medical care. There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center.