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7Salutes: 5 organizations awarded for their service to veterans in need

Fisher House awards five organizations for their service to veterans in need (7News)
Fisher House awards five organizations for their service to veterans in need (7News)
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For years, Fisher House has been a sponsor of 7Salutes. This is an organization that provides housing for veterans’ families for free while a loved one is getting care.

They have built nearly 100 homes across the country to accommodate families in need and every year, the group recognizes other organizations through their service awards.

This year, five organizations were chosen out of hundreds.

“When I got back home, I was going through transitional type issues as most of our military folks do,” said Robert Elliot.

Six of Elliot’s fellow Marines committed suicide after getting home.

Farming saved Elliot’s life, and when other veterans heard about his experience, they wanted to become farmers too.

“Pretty soon after that, so many veterans were contacting me that I had to make a decision; either I was going to help veterans or I was going to continue to farm and I love my brothers and sisters,” Elliot said.

Elliot helped graduate 500 veterans through a program he created.

Now, I grow farmers, that’s what I do,” said Elliot.

Elliot was one of five people, or organizations, recognized by the Fisher House Military Times Foundation Service Awards.

$250 million was divided up among the five groups.

“We help bring back pride, dignity, self-worth. All the traits you need to not commit suicide,” said Richard Ecker. “So, I think we are playing a small role in that arena as well.”

Ecker is the founder of the Vets on Track Foundation, another service award recipient.

The group helps provide furnishings to homes and apartments of once-homeless veterans who are getting housing.

The foundation began after Ecker visited a veteran who had just gotten off the streets.

“That veteran had absolutely nothing in his home,” Ecker said. “He had a blanket on the floor and a small TV. He had no furniture, no dishes, he didn’t even have any bath towels.”

“What we did for him that day was we transformed that empty house into a home,” Ecker added. “When we go in, we do furniture, dishes, pots and pans, shower curtains, bath towels, art work...we provide everything.”

Ecker has now provided this service to 1,100 veterans who found themselves in similar situations. With his award money, Ecker is hoping to double that number.

We provide dreams that provide joy, comfort and closure,” Ecker said.

This year’s big winner is Dream Foundation, a California-based company that grants dying wishes to adults. CEO Kisa Heyer said a lot of veterans have been recipients, and for every dream granted, there are tears of joy and heartache.

“One was a man with terminal brain cancer, age 40. His daughter danced and loved to dance since she was 4 years old. They came to us and wanted to take a trip and mash up a video of the dad and daughter dancing,” said Heyer. “The reason they wanted this is he wanted her to be able to play this at her wedding instead of being able to do the father-daughter dance.”

Each of these organizations is doing amazing work to help the men and women who have so selflessly served our nation.

If you know a group or someone in the community making a difference in the lives of veterans, send an email to 7News

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