Every once in a while, an angel drops into my life, if only for a moment. I suspect we have all had this experience—a stranger on the train who happens to share a particularly encouraging word, an empathic “friend of a friend” who has experienced a life trial that we may be enduring, or a person known only to us through a magazine article or television piece who says something that stirs our heart. I recently had one of those occasions during a meeting of the business association where I work. I came to meet one of the daughters of the member of our association. Lindsey was remarkable in every way. She had graduated from the U.S. Air Force academy and was in the midst of her service obligations. She was taking time off from active duty to return to school, to study philosophy at Boston College. After completing her work at BC, she anticipated returning to the Academy to teach philosophy and ethics. This part of her story is most certainly compelling, but she had the spirit, kindness and enthusiasm that I rarely find in people—much less strangers. In my first conversation with her, she told me that she was just finishing her latest deployment. My mind, of course, went to combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, but instead, she told me that she had been working at the Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, where the bodies of fallen soldiers arrived from the Wars. While every aspect of military service, to my mind, must be grueling, her appointment was particularly heartbreaking—working with the families of the dead.
I consider myself something of a pacifist, and I have always struggled with our country sending young people to war. As a constant reminder of the human costs of war, I usually read the daily listing of “the fallen” in the New York Times…..the chronicle of young men (usually) from places like Ohio and California and Oklahoma, who are snatched away at such a young age. Yet, here was this wonderful young lady who was there to provide support and help to the families they left behind. This was a bittersweet revelation. I knew that Lindsay was a “half full” type of person and, even in our short discussions, I appreciated that she had integrated her personal principles and faith with being in the military service; I was eager to learn more about, and from, this young woman. She told me about a wonderful philanthropic venture that made her work easier at Dover, The Fisher House. Fisher House runs some 17 houses at installations around the country. It provides comfort and services for families who are coping with the injury—or death—of a soldier. These places are akin to the more familiar Ronald McDonald Houses, which provide community and services for families with critically ill kids.
The Fisher House program was launched by Mr. Zachary Fisher, a successful real estate businessman and a generous philanthropist. The list of charity organizations with which he was affiliated is a very long one, but his commitment to members of the military and their family was stunning. He and his wife launched a foundation specifically aimed at serving the armed forces and President Clinton presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Although Mr. Fisher passed in 1999, his good works continue. The Fisher program has served more than 50,000 families. President Obama recently donated a portion of his monetary award from the Nobel Peace Prize to the Fisher House, a small silver lining in a very dark cloud. Thank you Lindsey for uplifting me in many ways, and pointing out the generosity of this amazing family and shining light on what we “do right” in taking care of the families of the fallen.