Group seeks to help families of injured soldiers at JBLM who need place to stay
Sgt. Matt Zajac was driving a Humvee full of soldiers
through the streets of Baghdad in May 2007 when he hit an
IED and it exploded.
“I had lost both my legs and had a hole where a piece of
shrapnel went through my right wrist,” says Zajac.
His condition was grave. He was stabilized and ultimately
sent back to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio,
His father, Mike, dropped everything and raced from his
in New Mexico to be by his son’s side.
“For about a week I just slept right there in the chair.
But at some point you’ve got to have a place to go, you’ve
got to have somewhere and you’re in a strange city a
miles from home,” says Mike.
“There’s no real plans for that so I had no idea what I
was going to do when I got there.”
But Mike was fortunate. The base was home to a Fisher
House, one of many special places around the world
providing free, temporary housing and other support, like
laundry, for family of service members getting medical
military and VA hospitals.
“I immediately thought ‘How am I going to afford this?’
They said ‘You don’t understand, we don’t charge for
this – it’s your room as long as your soldier is in the
hospital’,” says a grateful Mike.
While Matt underwent over a dozen surgeries and painful
rehabilitation, Mike was able to stay by his side.
“It meant the world to me. It was great knowing I wasn’t
going through this alone. It helped me recover,” says
But many others aren’t nearly as fortunate. With so many
soldiers needing medical care after a decade fighting two
wars, there aren’t enough rooms or Fisher Houses to go
around. The eight-bedroom Fisher House at Joint Base Lewis
McChord has been 100 percent full for the last three
years. Many families are forced to stay in motels, or for
those who can’t afford it, some even camp out or sleep in
their cars just to be near their loved ones.
“There are a lot of people who have served us and haven’t
asked for much in return and some of those people need
help,” says Carl Gardner, VP/Market Manager of Bonneville
Seattle, which includes 97.3 KIRO FM, 710 ESPN Seattle and
AM 770 The Truth.
Bonneville Seattle has partnered with the Seahawks and
Mariners to lead a new community partnership aimed at
raising awareness that will ultimately lead to a new
Fisher House at JBLM.
“The lone Fisher House currently in operation here at JBLM
is bursting at the seams and it’s no longer enough to
serve the growing needs of the military families who are
to help a loved one through the difficult medical and
rehabilitation process,” says David Coker, President of
Fisher House Foundation.
“A second house is essential to the mission at Lewis-
Mike says Fisher House made a huge difference in Matt’s
recovery, and other military families deserve the same
“To see somebody who’s been chewed up in the war and then
comes home and has to sit there by himself, I can’t
imagine. I wouldn’t want to know what that’s like.”
Hopefully, very few returning home to JBLM will have to
know, with the help of Fisher House and you.