The Murfreesboro Post

Capt. Doug McGowen and Andrea Lawrence

Help support wounded vets with Fisher House

LISA MARCHESONI, Post Contributor
Posted: Sunday, July 4, 2010 5:35 am

Since Americans aren’t rationing for the war, Andrea Lawrence suggests they support the war effort by building a home for out-of-town veterans and their families treated at the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro.

The combined York VA Medical Center and the Veterans Hospital in Nashville comprise the sixth largest VA medical center in the country and treat veterans throughout the south for organ replacements, heart surgeries and joint replacements.

Lawrence, of Brentwood, president of the Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, proposes to build a $6.7 million Tennessee Fisher House at York’s campus. The house will provide lodging and meals for up to 20 patients and families who travel more than 50 miles away for treatment.

“Hotels can be extremely expensive for a family, especially on a lengthy stay,” Lawrence said. “If you figure $100 a night for a 15-night stay, that costs money.”

The Fisher House Foundation in Maryland will pay about one-half of the cost while donations must fund the remaining $3 million.

“We’re in a war and we aren’t being asked to ration anything.” Lawrence said. “We need to support the people fighting that war and those who fought it before.”

Besides the lodging and food, families may be offered psychological counseling, grief counseling and the camaraderie of other families.

The board will hold a party from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 10 at York VA Medical Center for the community to inform residents about the project. The event will include music, a comedian and light refreshments.

Members are planning several fundraisers such as a walk and a concert. About 440 Navy sailors in Millington, Tenn., and 19 in Afghanistan ran in a 10-nautical mile inaugural race in June in Millington with the proceeds earmarked for the Tennessee Fisher House.

The president hopes individuals and civic groups in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama will support the project with other fundraisers.

Lawrence’s support of the effort came from her background and personal encounters with wounded veterans. She traced her heritage back to the Revolution and belongs to the Daughters of the America Revolution.

One personal encounter occurred when her World War II veteran father Rome D. Duke, a member of Gen. George Patton’s army, suffered a stroke at his Georgia home and she and her husband paid for an inexpensive hotel lodging more than two weeks.

“It was extremely expensive for us, a big chunk out of our normal budget,” Lawrence said.

A second encounter occurred when she and her husband adopted a soldier in 2006 from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. They adopted now Lt. Jason Safier, his wife, Betsy, and their son, Zacharia.

When Safier deployed, the Lawrences became Betsy Safier’s support, including the birth of their second child when Lawrence stayed with her during labor and her husband kept Zacharia.

When Safier returned, Lawrence asked what she could do for the soldiers. He suggested she become involved in the Fisher House Foundation. Lawrence joined the board and learned plans were already underway for the house.

She believes the York VA Medical Center needs a Fisher House “home away from home” for active duty and veterans and their families.

“Why not ration a little bit of our money and give it for this house?” Lawrence asked.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful benefit.”

• Donate online at or mail a donation to the Fisher House Foundation, P.O. Box 774, Brentwood, Tenn., 37024-0774. For more information, contact Andrea Lawrence at

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