The help of Gold Star Families in their time of need
Fisher House Foundation helps military families across the country, of which there is a loved one in the hospital — in all more than 300,000 since 1990.
It is something that no military family ever wants to see: their soldier’s final journey home.
Craig and Toni Gross had to face the journey back in 2011, when the Army Corporal Frank Gross, their only son, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
“He was my fishing buddy, my gulling buddy, guitar buddy, my artist buddy,” Craig said.
The family made the sudden 1,000-mile journey from Tampa, Florida, to Dover Air Force Base to his body in person.
Frank Gross, with his father, Craig; Frank was killed in 2011 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan
Toni said: “That was a dark time of our lives.”
Although it was one of their lowest low, there was support — thanks to the Fisher House and the organization behind it. The Fisher Foundation helps military families across the country, of which there is a loved one in the hospital.
In all, the non-profit has helped more than 300,000 families since 1990 through the donation of 58 homes across the country and in Germany and the United Kingdom.
But the house at Dover Air Force Base is specially for families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Frank Gross with his mother Toni, who is already volunteering at Fisher House
“That is, I think, was the main Fisher House that we have ever made”, said Ken Fisher, Fisher House Foundation chairman and CEO. “We believe in the power of the family. We believe in, of course, to the plight of the military family to the light.”
This house is run by members of the air force — including house manager, technical sergeant Dorothy Whitfield.
“This house is their safe haven while they are here in Dover for their short stay,” Whitfield said.
The house has a fully equipped kitchen, several bedrooms and a living room full of toys to make the family a tough day a little easier.
Whitfield said: “If they are sad and they want to cry, we are there with them and we cry with them.”
Years after the Gross visit, the Fisher House is still making an impact on the family life.
Toni began volunteering.
“I just knew that I needed to give back and encourage others. I also knew that by the return of my spirit will be lifted,” she said.
It is a sense of service shared by the CEO and his staff.
“I didn’t serve in the army, I didn’t wear the uniform,” Fisher said. “And so, for me, this is a small way of serving, my way to give something back.”
Whitfield said: “I feel honoured that I am there for them in the most difficult time of their lives.”