New Fisher House on Fort Bragg Offers More for Ill, Wounded Soldiers

For more than a year, Lorie Southerland made so many visits to the site of Fort Bragg's new Fisher House that the project manager gave her a hard hat of her own.

But Southerland, manager of the comfort home that serves the families of wounded or ill service members, doesn't need a hard hat to visit the new house any longer.

Last week, Southerland and her team of volunteers officially moved into the new location next to Womack Army Medical Center.

The new house provides more space and improves on the older, outdated Fisher House at the corner of Normandy Drive and Reilly Road.

The location won't be officially dedicated until next month, but is the newest in a network of 70 comfort homes the Fisher House Foundation maintains on 24 military installations and 27 VA medical centers across the nation.

During a tour of the facility, Southerland excitedly showed off new furnishings, spacious rooms and other amenities.

"It's huge," she said.

Southerland was speaking of the size.

With more than 10,000 square feet, the house is at least 3,000 square feet larger than the old Fisher House.

Last year, the Fort Bragg Fisher House served more than 300 families, offering more than 1,600 free night stays to those in need.

Families stayed on average a week at a time, with the longest stay at about six months.

But the smaller house wasn't always enough.

Fort Bragg is the nation's largest military installation. It's home to a large warrior transition unit and the Army's busiest emergency room.

That means sometimes families would come to Fort Bragg to see loved ones but have to be turned away to be put up in hotels instead of staying on post.

"We were cramped," Southerland said. "The Fisher House Foundation would pay for hotels, but we'd have to turn a few families away."

With a new building, the Fort Bragg Fisher House can now support more families, with 11 rooms hosting a mix of one or two-bed setups.

It's more handicapped accessible, with bathrooms, hallways and rooms designed with wheelchairs in mind.

That's a far cry from the old home, which couldn't be navigated by wheelchair.

"It's the little things we take for granted," Southerland said, showing off large windows, laundry facilities and a sprawling kitchen with four ovens, two stove tops and two sinks.

As Southland led the tour, a neighbor of the old house visited to drop off strawberry bread for Fisher House guests.

It's not an unusual visit. And Southerland pointed out other gifts, too.

There's the video game consoles that came courtesy of Operation Supply Drop, a charity that provides games for troops, and rocking chairs from a company in Troutman. New York firefighters gave toys and a recliner.

Nearby Albritton Middle School is starting a herb garden, Southland said.

Clean Precision in Spring Lake has offered to wash the Fisher House linens at no charge, she said.

"Everybody's doing a little something to help us out, to do something for us," Southerland said.

That's the special thing about the Fisher House, she said. While the larger organization is supported by the generosity of the family of Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, plenty of support comes at a small scale, too.

The thought nearly brings tears to Southerland's eyes as she talks about older veterans hosting silent auctions and schoolchildren pooling together donations.

"The support has always been there," Southerland said. "People want to do things to help. It makes me cry."

Southerland said many think the need for Fisher Houses has decreased as the military conducts fewer deployments.

But they couldn't be more wrong, she said.

When troops are ill or hurting, they are often hundreds or more miles from home, Southerland said. That's where the Fisher House steps in, to provide comfort in times of need.

"The need will always be there," she said.

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