November 09, 2017

EMU student and veteran Daniel Patrick is leading initiative to build a Fisher House adjacent to the Veteran's Hospital in Ann Arbor.

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There are 72 Fisher Houses around the world, but none so far in Michigan. EMU student Daniel Patrick is working to change that.

Since he was a child, Daniel Patrick had always wanted to be a U.S. Marine—a role he thought he’d perform forever and what he still calls “the best job I’ve ever had.”

After returning home injured during a difficult deployment in Iraq, he understands the struggles of veterans facing medical treatment, along with the predicament of their families. He is diligently working to ensure veterans are cared for by providing a place for families to stay while visiting their loved ones.

Daniel Patrick
Daniel Patrick

Patrick, 29, who’s studying English literature, composition and journalism at EMU, is director of Fisher House Michigan, an organization devoted to raising funds to build a facility in Michigan for families of wounded warriors.  

Fisher Houses offer sanctuary and care for families of veterans while they are in the hospital or receiving serious care. The approach is similar to that of a Ronald McDonald House for families of cancer patients—offer services and a location that enable caregivers to fully focus on their hospitalized relative.

There are 72 Fisher homes around the World, and Patrick’s group plans to build a Fisher home adjacent to the Veteran’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, and also hopes to see more in the state eventually. So far, Fisher House of Michigan has raised $1.2 million of its $5 million goal—$3.5 million to build the facility and $1.5 in backup funds to help run it.

Patrick has been instrumental in raising funds for the Ann Arbor facility. “Writing press releases, traveling all over the state, giving speeches—whatever is needed,” he says of his efforts.

He was also central in planning a special event at Hill Auditorium Nov. 8, “Stories of Service, An Evening with Veterans” in which five Veterans shared their stories during a moving night mixed with performances.

Patrick attended Stockbridge High School, and enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduation. He attended the Marine Corps Base Boot Camp in Pendleton Calif., and was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, scene of some of the most brutal fighting in the Iraq War.

He served four years, but was severely injured when a hand grenade landed next to him. He was transported to medical facilities in Fallujah, Baghdad and Germany before ending up at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Surgeons implanted a new left hip, and repaired his left arm, inserting several metal parts.

Walter Reed Hospital has a Fisher House and they called Patrick’s father and told him to take the first plane to be with his son. His father worried about the cost of the ticket and where he would stay, but Fisher House told him just to get on a plane and be there as soon as he could—everything else would be taken care of at no expense to him.

“I had the best hospital, the best doctors and the best medicine had to offer, but what meant more to me than anything else was having my dad by my side, because, “A family’s love is the best medicine,” Patrick says, reciting the Fisher House motto.

That stay and its benefits left a deep impression on Patrick, who was out of school for 15 years and worked various jobs before he decided to enroll at Eastern this year and pursue his passion—writing.

Patrick notes there are 650,000 veterans in Michigan, the majority over 50 years of age. He notes wryly that Ohio has four Fisher Houses, and Michigan none.

Shortly after he began at Eastern, he was asked to become director of the Fisher House Michigan, so evident was his talent for writing and his drive and passion to help his comrades.

“I couldn’t pass it up,” he says of the role. “It’s a chance to serve my brothers and sisters again, where we can make a real impact on the veterans’ community in Michigan. I can give back after so much was given to me. It’s cool to see the community come together.”

Karen Kerry, a longtime Ann Arbor resident and member of the Fisher House Michigan Board of Directors, notes that families will be able to walk right into the VA hospital from the house, with no worries about driving, parking or other logistics. Kerry says the house is scheduled to be 16 family suites and 13,400 square feet. The common areas are the kitchen, dining room, family room and laundry facilities.

“These are not barracks, they are 'comfort homes' designed to care for the caregivers, those veteran families supporting the loved one who is getting treatment in the VA during a medical crisis,” Kerry says.

Kerry says she’s excited that EMU has been involved in becoming part of the Fisher House family. “It takes a community to support those who have served – and we thank EMU most for sharing Dan Patrick with us,” she says. “What a blessing he has been to this initiative.”

Patrick recognizes the skills he learned in the military—adaptability, teamwork, discipline, work ethic—benefit him now as he seeks to raise awareness of the needs’ of military families.

“My life isn’t the same,” he says of coping with his injuries. “But it can be even better.”

Contact Geoff Larcom, glarcom@emich.edu, 734.487.4401

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