Video: Recovery is easier with family close by

By Ann Curry
NBC News
updated 1/25/2007 7:25:11 PM ET 2007-01-26T00:25:11

WASHINGTON — It's early, and Denise Metti and Joanne Keliikipi-Haimoto, both mothers of wounded soldiers, already are comforting and consoling at their sons' sides — every day, often all day — thanks to free housing near the Palo Alto Veteran's Hospital.

"It's 120 steps away from our sons," Denise says.

"You counted?" Joanne asks.

"I counted, yes I did!" Denise says.

The facilities were built by Zach Fisher, a real estate developer and philanthropist. Never able to serve himself, Fisher once called war veterans national treasures who deserve to have their loved ones near when they need them most.

"We don't consider this to be charity, we consider this to be duty," says Ken Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation.

Before he died, Zach Fisher built 24 houses. Since the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, 11 more houses have gone up in seven states with the help of private donations, helping servicemen and women heal faster.

"I have got the giggle squad," wounded soldier Anthony Brawdy says as his laughing family pushes his wheelchair.

Soldiers will help soldiers out — that how it's always been. Up at the Fisher House, it's the same tradition, but with a twist: Soldiers' families are helping other soldiers' families out.

"Ninety-nine percent of the part of rehab, of rehealing, is having that loved one, that family member with you, having that support group," says Brian Radke, who is in the Fisher House at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Radke and his wife have faced his devastating wounds, five strokes and more than 50 surgeries together, for more than a year. Brian says sometimes the house is like a reality show, but the friendships are real.

"I'm talking about everybody in this environment," Radke's wife Nova says. "If we didn't have each other, we would not — I wouldn't have survived, I wouldn't have survived."

For families managing hospital visits and surgery, the houses are not quite home, but a big step on the road back.

"That's what Fisher House means to me," Denise Metti says. "You have love and support from strangers."

Support and healing, thanks to the vision of a patriotic American, until the last of the injured go home.

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