Fisher House construction marks 'historic day'
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Former Army Special Forces Captain David K. Hughes was a featured speaker at the groundbreaking.
As 9/11 will always be a day of infamy for Americans, Sept. 13, 2012, is a positive landmark day when “ground was broken” for construction of a Fisher House on historic York VA Medical Campus in Murfreesboro.

Since more than $2 million in donations have come from throughout the Volunteer State over the past seven years, this Fisher House, free for use to ailing veterans and families, has been christened: “The People’s Fisher House.”

Sept. 13 is a special day of “mixed emotions” for former Army Special Forces Capt. David K. Hughes, who nearly lost his life in Afghanistan.

The wounded warrior was not expected to walk again after an enemy explosive device detonated while he led his Special Forces’ unit on a mission.

“Sept. 13 is a great day, in celebration of construction of a Fisher House that will benefit a countless number of wounded soldiers now and in the future, plus their families,” Hughes said.

He also touched on death in the reality of war.

“But, Sept. 13 is also a day of somber respect, for one year ago today (military medic) Dan Adams lost his life in service to country,” Hughes described. “If not for him, when I was wounded, I would probably be paralyzed from my wounds when the IED device exploded. What he did for me when I was wounded...” Hughes trailedoff and struggled to regain his composure.

“Dan, who was killed Sept. 13, 2011,” Hughes continued, “no doubt is looking down today, smiling, for he knows what value this Fisher House will be to countless soldiers and families in the future.”

The wounded warrior was described as a “walking miracle” by retired Lt. Col. Hooper Penuel, of Lascassas, and Tennessee Fisher House President Andrea “Andy” Lawrence, of Nashville, during a live WGNS Radio remote broadcast of the “Truman Jones Show” on York VA grounds in Murfreesboro.

“Within 18 hours of my wounds, my wife Pam was by my side at the hospital in Germany, because there is a Fisher House in place there,” Hughes added.

When stabilized, the Special Forces’ officer was flown to a military trauma center in Tampa, Fla.

“A Fisher House at Tampa again let my wife be by my side, which can better than medicine when a soldier is fighting for his life,” Hughes diagnosed.

Country Music star and Marine Corps veteran Stephen Cochran also took the podium at the ground-breaking ceremony.

“I received severe back injuries to my lower spine, which required surgery at the Nashville VA and Vanderbilt Medical Center where they ‘cemented’ my vertebrae back together, so I could walk again,” the singer noted. “If not for a Fisher House at Bethesda, my parents’ and all our finances would have been drained … you cannot measure the benefit of having family and loved ones’ support that a Fisher House makes possible for veterans and families.”

Retired Navy WAVE Harriett Howard, of Smyrna, was recognized as a “fundraising force,” for this Fisher House, which is being funded by $2.25 million as Tennessee’s part of private citizen donations.

“It was a ‘letter to the editor’ eight long years ago by Navy WAVE Howard that triggered area fund raising for this Fisher House,” credited Long Hunter State Park Ranger Thurman “Doc” Mullins, a decorated medic from the Vietnam War-era.

“Harriett Howard is known all the way to Washington for her ‘shoe box’ that she uses to raise money for this Fisher House,” added national Fisher House Foundation president David Coker, of Washington, D.C. “This Fisher House is the result of a private-public partnership.”

It’s the 57th Fisher House to be constructed in the U.S. and Europe.

Decorated Vietnam War hero Andy Womack, a former state senator from Rutherford County, credited “local Tennessee Fisher House board members” with “tireless work above and beyond the call of duty” in educating the public about the need for funding this Fisher House that will serve ailing and wounded veterans’ families from both the York VA and Nashville VA medical centers.

Retired 36-year Army Guard veteran Thomas Moss, of Smyrna, was among the estimated 300 in attendance at the Sept. 13 ground-breaking on York VA grounds.

“I belong to the Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle-riding group that supports Missing In Action families and veterans,” Moss noted from the back of his Harley-Davidson machine. “We’re here today for the Fisher House that will benefit so many families and veterans coming home from the wars around the globe.”

But more donations are still needed to complete the project.

“We are short $141,000 in reaching our $2.25 million goal as Tennessee’s part of this Fisher House project,” detailed Penuel.

Donations can be made at the Murfreesboro Post newspaper, 2955 S. Rutherford Blvd., and WGNS Radio, 306 S. Church St., both in Murfreesboro or the Cannon Courier, 210 W. Water St. in Woodbury.

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