Monday, September 8, 2008

It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint; Fisher House

This story begins in August of 2001. Paul and Dana Anello White were living in Buffalo, New York. Dana was a Physical Therapist, and Paul was finishing his Masters Degree in Secondary Education. They were beginning their family. Paul had gotten a Reserve commission in the Army through ROTC in his undergraduate years.

Educated, focused, fit; the Whites were a poster couple for the new millennium.

As for so many of us, everything changed with the events of 9/11. Like the twin towers, the airliners of that fateful morning brought an end to that chapter of their lives. Like the country, they found their course altered.

Paul found that he could not sit idly by while his country girded itself for the Global War on Terror. He applied for active duty. After undergoing branch schooling as a Quartermaster Branch officer, he was assigned to Ft Campbell, Kentucky. Shortly thereafter Paul was deployed to OIF I.

Paul returned to Ft Campbell and the couple had their first child. Paul, now a Captain, assumed his first command and prepared to take his company downrange. Dana was now a full-time mother and the wife of a commander. As any unit commander's wife can tell you, it's her job, too. She led the Family Readiness Group.

If you've ever seen the movie We Were Soldiers, it depicts what has become known as a Family Readiness Group in a 1960's Hollywood way. Like any movie, it cannot portray the realities of active military duty, family life, or the mixture of pride, fear, responsibility and determination that real men and women... American families... live.

CPT Paul White took his company to Iraq in 2005. Dana led the FRG, no mean feat, and cared for their young son as well as the families of the soldiers Paul led in Iraq. They struggled to make and maintain contact. Technology was a boost and a bane. Dana recalls a site where the families and soldiers would upload pictures, a two-way sharing across a seemingly endless distance that cheered both sides.

The Army blocked the site.

Dana helped to solve problems like these that can mean so much to those on either side of the Atlantic. While she managed these issues and led the life of a mother sans partner, she found an email from Fisher House in her inbox. Fisher House was forming a marathon team to raise money. The Ft Campbell Fisher House was under construction at the time.

Dana felt a call.

Fisher House is an organization which provides no-cost housing for the families of wounded servicemen while the soldier, Marine, sailor or airman undergoes medical treatment for their wounds. As Dana puts it, "Think of it as Ronald McDonald House, Army style!"

There are 33 Fisher Houses at 18 military installation medical centers and Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers in the United States and Germany. So far, these houses have eased the lives of over 120,000 American families as their loved ones recovered from wounds suffered in the service of their country.

Fisher House relieves the families of these soldiers from having to worry about one very important thing so that these families can focus their attention on the one most important thing; their loved one. What a tremendous gift.

I mentioned that the Whites were fit. I wasn't kidding. Dana had been a swimmer in college and one of her coaches was a triathlete. Soon after college, Dana was doing triathlons. The email from Fisher House intrigued her.

Why not do a marathon?

Dana discussed this idea with Paul, who decided that he, too, would train for the Marine Corps Marathon. This race is held in October in Washington, DC. As Paul struggled to find time during the deployment to train, Dana struggled to train while caring for their now two year old son.

Paul returned home in September, 2006. A month later, the couple ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Eighty five runners ran for Fisher House in 2006, raising $70,000 for the charity. This year, 285 runners have set a goal of $400,000.

Wow. Noble goal.

One of the runners is, you guessed it; Dana Anello White. She and (now) Major White are stationed at West Point, New York while he teaches at the Military Academy. Scarcely a year after giving birth to their second child, a daughter, last August, Dana is running another marathon for Fisher House.

She decided shortly after the birth that her goal would be to run the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon for Fisher House on October 26th. Running a marathon isn't easy. Running a marathon after giving birth to your second child is less so.

"What was I thinking?" Dana says, laughing. "It must have been a post-partum hormonal moment or something."

Perhaps. I call it the kind of quiet heroism that makes this country great.

While Major Paul White trains our newest generation of officers, he also supports his wife's efforts to train for a marathon. Dana is often running up to 7 miles at 5:00 in the morning. She has arranged her training schedule so that her long runs, some as long as 20 miles, are on the weekends when the Major can take over the kids.

Here's where you come in.

So far, these runners have raised about $200,000. With seven weeks to go before race day, they need to raise some more money for this wonderful organization.

I've said before that this war is a marathon and not a sprint. Perhaps it's time for a little bit of sprinting.

Please follow the link and consider helping Dana to lift the Fisher House team to their goal. There are many places and ways that people can contribute to charitable organizations these days, but I think that this is one that you can definitely be proud to support. Lots of people can say, "I support our troops," but here is an opportunity to demonstrate it.

Please watch this video about Fisher House, and then below that is the link to make a donation supporting Fisher House through Team Fisher House.

Click HERE to go to Dana's page and make a donation.

Then, if you will, go HERE and support this blog. >wink, wink<

You may need to register to do so, but it's free. We like free, don't we? The nomination phase ends at midnight on Wednesday.


  1. I know you were nominated for the milblogging awards at least eight times. Need to get the campaign in gear earlier next year.

  2. Great story. My favorite line "Technology was a boost and a bane." I hope the Army continues to get better at working with emerging internet technologies!


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