Providing families of hospitalized American soldiers with the comforts of home
Story by Alexandria Lindstrom | Photography Courtesy of The Fisher House
When the Gulf War began, it brought wounded soldiers’ needs to the immediate attention of Americans, reminding the nation of the sacrifices they made every day in pursuit of securing safety around the world. As more soldiers came home in need of medical care, their families were among those most deeply impacted by the horrors of war. In response, the Fisher House program was opened in 1990 to provide families of hospitalized American soldiers with the comforts of home.
Nearly three decades later, the Fisher House program has grown in both attention and support, opening houses at major military medical centers across the nation. After recognizing the need for an alternative to expensive hotels in the D.C. area, the District of Columbia - VA Medical Center’s Fisher House opened in 2011 to provide free temporary housing to families of veterans and active-duty service members receiving care at the VA Medical Center to offer a “home away from home” during a time when proximity is healing to all.
Funded by the Fisher House Foundation, each of the homes are located on major military bases and VA Medical Center campuses nationwide. There is never a lodging fee, no matter the duration of the stay; the foundation has saved families an estimated $451 million in out-of-pocket expenses for lodging and transportation.
As important as the Fisher House Foundation’s work is, however, having a place to stay is only one piece of the equation while a loved one is in the hospital. Families of these service members and veterans also need financial support for basics such as food and clothing, as well assistance with their regular monthly bills and for temporary transportation such as rental cars.
Knowing the importance of bridging that gap, the Armed Forces Financial Network (AFFN) – a military and civilian consumer ATM and point of sale network co-owned by the Defense Credit Union Council (DCUC) and the Association of Military Banks of America – partnered with Fisher House Foundation in 2004. AFFN supports the financial needs of active duty, reservists, retirees, veterans, and military families. Over the past four years, more than 19,000 families staying at Fisher Houses around the world have received more than $1 million in AFFN prepaid debit cards or AFFN thank you cards. “Every dollar distributed has proudly assisted military and veterans’ families, providing them with assistance such as transportation, care and comfort items, clothing, and meals,” said John Broda, president and CEO of AFFN.
“Serving those who serve is part of our DNA as an organization as well as our DNA as the people working for this organization. It’s all about people helping people and realizing that, together, we are stronger. Together, we inspire others to be kind and do good in service to others.” - John Broda
Service for others is very much a core mission for AFFN and DCUC. Created in 1985 at the request of the Department of Defense U.S. Army Finance, the mission of AFFN is to give American service members and their families access to their newly “direct deposited” pay – regardless of where in the world they are. Since then, defense credit unions and military banks have offered AFFN access on ATM, debit, and credit cards; AFFN has processed more than 3 billion military and civilian consumers ATM, point of sale purchases, and e-commerce transactions. But it isn’t all about the money for this organization. “AFFN, in partnership with our DCUC credit unions and AMBA banks, gives back with every transaction processed. One of the fundamental and core principals at AFFN is serving our troops one transaction at a time, and we really believe that we are truly processing with a purpose.”
Putting those words into action, AFFN launched the AFFN Military Community Support Program (MCSP) in 2004, creating a unique partnership in giving by joining forces with AMBA Banks and DCUC Credit Unions to give back to active duty, reservists, retirees, veterans, and military families. Since then, more than $4 million has been given directly, and providing support to military families staying at a Fisher House has been at the center of the AFFN MCSP.
“The U.S. military is an all voluntary service, and our U.S. active duty service members, reservists, retirees, and military families are truly our nation’s most treasured resources,” Broda said. “We owe it to these brave men and women who currently serve or have served in the past our undying gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifice they’ve made. Our network of giving is based on our love and respect for them, and our recipients sense that and give back just as much – if not more – than they receive,” he added, clearly passionate about the need to provide financial support to these proud and brave men and women and their families.
During such a critical time in the lives of these military members and their families, the work of Fisher House Foundation, supported by AFFN in partnership with DCUC, can mean all the difference. For those who serve so bravely and selflessly, each Fisher House and the financial support given represents the support of the community, and a thank you for all the ways we have been served as a nation by our service members and the families that serve alongside them.
To learn more about how to donate to the Fisher House Foundation, including donating air miles to help with airfare and hotel accommodations for military families in need, visit