Video: Fallen Heroes

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updated 2/10/2006 4:40:14 PM ET 2006-02-10T21:40:14

The non-profit Intrepid Foundation is spearheading the Fallen Heroes Fund, which is paying for the construction of a new 60,000 square foot state-of-the-art rehabilitation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. 

The $45 million project is being funded entirely with private donations.  When it opens next January, the center will treat and rehabilitate wounded military from Iraq, Afghanistan, and all previous conflicts. 

Chris Matthews was joined by Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and Bill White, President of the Intrepid Foundation to discuss this daunting task.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST 'HARDBALL':  Arnold Fisher is the honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund,  He and his son Ken, who‘s been on the program before several times, are also behind the Fisher Houses, which are often featured on HARDBALL

Also with us is Bill White, president of the Intrepid Foundation.  Good evening, gentlemen.  Thank you for coming here.  A great cause and let me ask you this.  You‘ve raised how much money for this? 

ARNOLD FISHER, HONORARY CHAIRMAN, INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND:  Well, we‘ve—the $10 million for the Fisher House, we‘ve already gotten—we‘ve got 30 of the 35 for the Center for the Intrepid, which is a 65,000 square foot, state-of-the-world rehabilitation—physical rehabilitation center, being built at Brooke Army Medical Center. 

Video: New facility for injured troops

It‘s being built by entirely private funds.  We‘re not looking for any government money, we don‘t want government money.  What it is, it‘s Americans supporting our troops coming back without arms or legs or some of them that have been taken from us. 

So we‘re taking care of the families and we want to take care of these catastrophic wounded and this is going to be the state-of-the-world, physical rehabilitation center. 

MATTHEWS:  Bill, let me ask you about disability.  You‘ve got—we‘ve had people on this program, our UPS drivers, deliverers, and they‘re in their 20s, and you think, God, by the time they‘re in their 30s, they‘ll still be OK.  By the time they‘re in their 40s it‘s going to get harder and harder to get around on the prosthetics.  How good are the new arms and legs people are getting? 

BILL WHITE, PRESIDENT, THE INTREPID FOUNDATION:  Oh, they‘re almost bionic in nature.  In fact, the facility that Mr. Fisher and our tremendously generous board are going to be building down in San Antonio will provide the most state-of-the-world technology coming from Israel, from Holland, from all over the world.

And they‘ll be able to get back on their legs and arms, but more importantly, what Mr. Fisher and our board is trying to do is get instead of just their arms and legs back, actually provide them some of their dignity back.  You‘ll be able to walk around but you‘ll actually be able to learn how to go ride on a horse, do the laundry, take a walk with your kids. 

I mean, these are the things that at age 24, when you‘re returning from war, you want to be able to spend time with your children and your wife and your family.  And this is the kind of technology that will be in the center. 

MATTHEWS:  Why you? 

FISHER:  Well, we‘ve—my uncle Zach started many years ago, and he started the Fisher Houses and he took care of some of the military accidents that happened in the states.  And when he died, two of my cousins and myself took up this drive for the Fallen Heroes. 

And when Afghanistan started, we figured we just couldn‘t do it alone, so we established this fund, 28,000 Americans have contributed to this fund, and we have raised $30 million.  We‘re $5 million short, and ...

MATTHEWS:  OK, right now where do people send their money? 

FISHER:  To the fallenheroesfund.org.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s simple.  Do you think that we have—what do we have?  How many amputees do we have now coming out of these wars? 

FISHER:  We‘re over 300 multiple amputees, and we handle about 40 or 50 at Brooke Army Medical Center a day.  The two Fisher Houses that are being built behind it are 21 rooms each, so it will be 42 families.  There will also be a child education center that will teach the young children what their mother or father, who have lost arms or ,legs will have to do and how they can help them.

MATTHEWS:  You know, television can only go so far.  I‘ve been out there at Walter Reed and I‘ve seen cases where they don‘t even want the people on television, not because they‘re not good people, but they‘re afraid to scare people.  I saw a guy with brain injuries, blindness and double amputations who still believes he‘s on duty and he‘s going to his next duty.

I saw a guy cut off at the waist.  How do you rehabilitate a guy like that?  How does it work?  And his beautiful wife was walking right next to him and I said, “God, what a picture.”  If people saw pictures like this, they‘d have a different reaction to the cost of war.  Not to make the case against war, but to realize its cost.

FISHER:  I think if everybody went to Walter Reed or Brooke Army Medical Center or to one of these facilities, there would be no question about what we need to do to help these kids.  And they are doing incredible things with them, and I just want to tell you one story that‘s very recent. 

There was a—when I went to Brooke Army Medical Center the first time and I walked in to that ward and there were six men in that ward, there were six arms and six legs total and as we were walking out, they were wheeling in a sergeant that lost a part of one leg and all of the other.  And his wife was behind him, pushing the wheelchair, his mother and father were there and one of five children.  And the general said to him, “Don‘t worry, we‘ll fix you up and get you back to service.”  And his wife said, “Oh no.  We‘re going to Dakotas, we‘re going to buy the farm.”  And said, Billy and I said, “Let‘s buy the farm for them.”

Well Wednesday she called the Fallen Heroes Fund and said, “Tell Mr.  Fisher and the board they should take the money they were going to put in that farm and put it into the center.”

MATTHEWS:  The final sacrifice, hey, thank you.  Great man, Mr.  Fisher.  You use the word mister with power.  What a guy you are.  Thank you.

WHITE:  One other thing, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  No more time, even for this cause.  To contribute—go ahead. 

WHITE:  One-hundred percent of every penny that is given to this fund will go directly to building the center.  I don‘t know any other foundation that can say that.  It‘s a good thing for your donors to know.

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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