FORD ISLAND, Hawaii --
More than 6,730 boots with photos of fallen service members lined the path for the Tripler Fisher House 8K Hero and Remembrance Run, Walk or Roll 2013, held on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Sept. 7, 2013. The event was organized to raise awareness of the mission of the foundation.
The Fisher House Foundation supplies military families with free, temporary housing near medical centers and hospitals while a loved one is receiving care. The foundation was established in 1990 to help veterans, service members and their families save money, according to http://www.fisherhouse.org
During the first year of the foundation, two Fisher Houses were opened, one at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. and one at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Over the next 13 years, 61 Fisher Houses have followed suit, opening nationwide and in Europe.
Oahu’s Tripler Fisher House is located near Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. The house is stocked with necessities families may need, all of which were donated by past families during or after their stay. Rooms are available on a first, come-first serve basis.
Some medical services are only available at certain facilities requiring individuals receiving treatment to be near specific hospitals. The Fisher House on Oahu is very important because many families cannot afford to stay on island due to high cost of living.
“If it weren’t for the Tripler Fisher House, some people couldn’t get their treatment,” said Theresa Johnson, Tripler Fisher House representative. “It could be life or death.”
Each home has between eight and 21 suites with private bedrooms and bathrooms. The families share a kitchen, laundry room, dining room and living room. Books, movies and children’s toys are available for use.
“I feel it’s an important organization because it’s helping our military members’ families be there for them when they are injured,” said Army Pfc. Elizabeth Root, analyst in G-2, U.S. Army Pacific, who recently learned of the foundation. “They really help with the morale of the injured.”
The houses are important to help healing service members and their families feel at home, according to http://www.fisherhouse.org
. It helps families return back to their normal routines and their normal lifestyles quicker.
“We accommodate around 200 families a year,” Johnson said. “But many more families come and use our facilities like the kitchen or washer and dryers.”
The homes are only able to remain serviceable through the volunteer work of the families whom stay. No maid or room service is available so cleanliness and organization is only possible through the individuals who use the home.
“We're like a family,” Johnson said. “We have families that will come to our events and some that are still friends with us on Facebook. I still receive messages from families who have left the island and are stationed elsewhere.”
Participants of the event ranged from families to entire military units. Whether running, walking or rolling, a large presence came out to show their support.
“My unit was all moved (to participate) and most of them walked it looking for their fallen battle buddies,” Root said. “One man even picked up a boot and ran with it. It turns out it was his son(‘s photo) who had recently passed.”
The boots with photos represented every recorded fallen service member since Sept. 11, 2001. This was the first year they had a boot for every member of the armed forces lost, Root explained.
“I saw a boot for my high school sweetheart,” Root said. “He and I were engaged before he deployed. I don’t really have many pictures of him so seeing his picture really hit me hard.”
More than 7,000 people participated in the run, 2,000 more than the previous year.
“I heard about the race when I made the Army Ten Miler team and we were looking into races to do to help us stay competitive,” Root said. “When we saw this, we knew we had to do it and try to get everyone we knew involved.”
After the race, the boots and photos were put on display in rows by year, under the Tower at the Pacific Aviation Museum and will be kept there for a week for families to find their fallen loved one’s photos. The photos will also be displayed on their Flickr account (search Tripler Fisher House) under year categories to make finding family and friends easier.
“Some people left notes on the photos or stopped and touched the face of the fallen service member,” Johnson said.
Families are encouraged to send a picture of their fallen service member to Tripler Fisher House’s Facebook page so they can be remembered at upcoming races.
“This is a no-cost event because these fallen service members have already paid the price,” Johnson said. “We want to honor them and hopefully show families that we haven’t forgotten.”
Anyone interested in information or assisting the organization can contact the Tripler Fisher House by Facebook.