4/28/2010 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) -- The groundbreaking ceremony for the Fisher House and Meditation Pavilion for the Families of the Fallen at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center is scheduled for May 1here.
AFMAO members will direct the Fisher House as it provides free on-base lodging for families who come here to witness the dignified transfer of their loved one. To further enhance families' comfort, the Fisher House Foundation is building a separate building for meditation and relaxation.
Currently, the families stay in local hotels and are brought on base for the event. In the past, some families have had to stay as far away as Philadelphia due to the lack of local hotel vacancies at certain times.
Fisher houses are "comfort homes" that provide free housing to family members whose loved ones are undergoing medical treatment or rehabilitation at military hospitals or Veterans Affairs medical centers around the country. Since 1990, more than 130,000 military families have stayed at one or more Fisher houses.
Fisher houses are more than hotels; they are fully equipped homes that feature common kitchens, and living and family rooms. The Dover Fisher House will serve only families of the fallen.
Construction on the nine-suite, 8,462-square-foot house and 1,714-square-foot Meditation Pavilion is expected to be completed late this fall. A portion of President Obama's Nobel Prize Award contribution to the foundation will go towards the funding of this house.
The Fisher House will be adjacent to the Center for the Families of the Fallen. The center is where family members who come here for the event receive care and support before and after the dignified transfer. The center also provides a point of contact where families can request follow-up assistance, such as counseling services or other needs, as they cope with the loss of their loved one.
Professionals such as experienced, licensed funeral directors, chaplains, counselors and family support specialists will staff the center as it hosts and helps families in every way needed. Together the Center for the Families of the Fallen, the Fisher House and the Meditation Pavilion will create a campus for families of the fallen here. A meditation garden with water features, a gazebo, paths and benches will surround, and flow through the entire campus.
AFMAO members are charged with receiving and caring for all US service members who die in overseas contingency operations. AFMAO staff, plus selected service-specific carry teams and senior leaders, conduct the dignified transfer.
Upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the fallen military members are transferred from the aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the port mortuary. Family members are authorized to witness the dignified transfer.
by Capt. Amber L. Millerchip
Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center Public Affairs