Statistics released by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) indicate that 20 veterans committed suicide per day in 2014, which is over seven thousand people per year.
We can be rest assured in knowing this statistic is being reduced thanks to certain individuals who have dedicated their lives in assisting veterans with their recovery, like Kenneth Fisher. Such a statement may be bold to say about one man alone but the work Mr Fisher does has undoubtedly been responsible for making this difference to the suicide prevention of veterans.
It is understandable that veterans, service men and women, who go to war and experience trauma would take their lives. But now there is more support than ever. Mr Fisher who is the Chairman of Fisher House Foundation, Inc., along with the team which includes some family members, has over 70 Fisher Homes including one in the UK and two in Germany. Once a veteran is wounded, and has to attend hospital, their family members can stay at the Fisher House free of charge to be with them during the recovery process. The financial burden is removed and they get to meet other families experiencing similar difficulties. Many people make life long bonds at the Fisher House instead of falling into the pits of darkness on their own and committing suicide.
The Fisher family founded Fisher House Foundation in 1990, and stepped in to provide a helpful role in the healing process of a wounded veteran and their family members. Since inception, the program has saved military and veterans families an estimated $320 million in out of pocket costs for lodging and transportation. The Fisher House has served more than 277,000 people since inception. This relives the financial burden from the veteran and lightens the load for the family. It reminds them that they are supported, that people do care. Knowing this alone can prevent people from committing suicide.
In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Mr Fisher to President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, which conducted a comprehensive review of the care provided to soldiers who return from the battlefield. He has received the George C. Marshall Award from the Association of the United Sates Army, its highest honor. Mr Fisher has also been twice awarded the Army Service Award and is both an honorary Army Green Beret (2004) and an Honorary Marine (2011). He has also received a Public Awareness award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America, is a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit, ansd has been named one of America's Best Leaders by US News & World Report. Mr Fisher can sleep well at night knowing he is making a difference and saving lives.
Then in January 2015, Mr Fisher stepped up to make Invictus Games happen in the USA, at Disney in Orlando Florida this past May 2016. He became the chairman and organizing committee of Invictus Games which was created by Britain's Prince Harry. The first games was held in London in 2014 and used the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. The next Invictus Games will be held in Toronto in 2017. Mr Fisher described this project as having many moving pieces. "We wanted to have an Olympic kind of feel. Disney was a great location because everyone stayed together and gave them a chance to bond and share their experience."
While it is obvious we are currently dealing with a global mental health epidemic, The Fisher House and Invictus Games were designed to help shine the light on post-traumatic stress and depression. It has changed the world for good.
"We as a nation must do more to encourage veterans in need to seek treatment and ask for help," Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, told the AP. Invictus Games gave the veterans a chance to be rest assured that other people are going through similar suffering and could ask each other 'How did you get through that? What did you do?'. "Of course it's hard when you see some of the things they saw." said Mr Fisher. Imagine you are with someone one minute, and then you turn around and they are gone.
"Everyone who came in to the Invictus Games, came out winning, whether they won a medal or not. Everyone can take something positive from this. " Said Mr Fisher. He went on to say that "The most incredible 10 minutes of my life" was when he was driven in a golf cart to the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games and greeted by 1,000 family and friends of veterans.
Mr Fisher said the games far exceeded anyone's expectations. I attended and would have to agree. Lives were changed from this one event and have caused a global ripple effect bringing awareness to post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and reminding veterans to remove suicide as an option.
This is just more great evidence that people are inherently good and want to uplift those that are down. When I asked Mr Fisher if he were to die tomorrow and read an article about himself, what he hopes it would say, he replied, "To be remembered as a person who made a difference." Well Mr Fisher - you have already left quite the legacy, and you are still here with more to come. This man can sleep well at night knowing he has made a positive difference in this world.
Let us acknowledge our fellow brother and sisters and help people out of the trenches. We can all play our part. My part is to assist in helping the body recover with food. When healing from depression, post-traumatic stress and recovering from surgery it is important we get high doses of nutrition to strengthen our immune system, so quinoa, avocados, Green Juice, chia seeds and sweet potatoes are incredibly helpful.
Mr Fisher was born in the Bronx, New York, and now you can see where he grew up from the view in his office on Park Avenue, Manhattan. I also want to acknowledge the team at Fisher House because without them this positive impact would not have been possible: Crystal Fisher, Kerri Childress, David Coker, Donna Alvarado, Vicki Reeping and Michael Fitzpatrick.
To learn more about Fisher House or support visit FisherHouse.org or call: 888 294 8560
When you donate one dollar, 95 cents goes towards the Veterans and their families.