The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund was established in 2000 to provide financial support for the dependents of United States military personnel lost in performance of their duty. This continued an effort begun in 1982 by the late Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, founders of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Fisher House Foundation. Following the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1982, the Fishers sent contributions of $10,000 to every child who lost a parent in the attack. Until Zachary’s passing in 1999, the Fishers made hundreds of similar contributions following military losses. These gifts, usually of $25,000, were intended to assist military families through any financial hardships they might face following the loss of their loved ones. After Zachary's passing in 1999, this tradition was carried on by Zachary’s nephews, Arnold, Richard and Tony Fisher, who quietly supported these efforts through the Intrepid Museum.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the United States’ involvement in the war on terrorism, the need for this support greatly increased and this effort was expanded to the public to help meet the growing need for funds.
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund was officially established as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2003, and top supporter Richard T. Santulli stepped forward to chair the new organization. Other leading supporters came together to form the Board of Trustees, and they continue to lead and support the Fund today. Through 2005, the Fund provided close to $20 million to families of United States military personnel lost in performance of their duty, mostly in service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Fund provided unrestricted grants of $11,000 to each spouse and $5,000 to each dependent child. In addition, Board member E. Roe Stamps personally funded an additional $1,000 to parents of unmarried servicemembers as an extension of that program. These payments were coordinated with the casualty offices of the Armed Forces, to ensure that all eligible families received this support. In 2005 federal legislation substantially increased the benefits granted to these families. With their needs now being supported much more substantially, the Fund turned to the next area of the military community needing help: our wounded warriors.
In January 2007, after only 16 months of fundraising and the generous support of over 600,000 Americans, the Fund completed construction of the Center for the Intrepid, a $55 million world-class state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. This Center serves military personnel who have been catastrophically disabled in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and veterans severely injured in other operations and in the normal performance of their duty. The 60,000 square foot Center provides ample space and facilities for the rehabilitation needs of the patients and their caregivers. It includes modern physical therapy equipment and extensive indoor and outdoor facilities. The Center is co-located with two 21-room Fisher Houses to accommodate the families of patients.
Following opening of the Center for the Intrepid, the Fund turned toward another critical issue faced by our wounded troops: the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The Fund addressed this need by constructing the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE). NICoE is a 72,000 square foot, two-story facility located on the Navy campus at Bethesda, Maryland, adjacent to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, with close access to the Uniformed Services University, the National Institutes of Health, and the Veterans Health Administration. NICoE is designed to provide the most advanced services for advanced diagnostics, initial treatment plan and family education, introduction to therapeutic modalities, referral and reintegration support for military personnel and veterans with TBI, Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and/or complex psychological health issues. Further, NICoE conducts research, tests new protocols and provides comprehensive training and education to patients, providers and families while maintaining ongoing telehealth follow-up care to patients across the country and throughout the world.
The current focus of the Fund is a series of Intrepid Spirit centers that will be constructed to further enhance TBI research, diagnosis and treatment. The Fund is constructing several of these new centers located at some of the largest military deployment bases around the country. These Centers will extend the care currently provided at NICoE out to the home bases of many of the troops suffering the effects of TBI. Data from these centers will be transmitted back to NICoE and aid in its ongoing research program, helping to improve detection, diagnosis and treatment of TBI, PTS and related afflictions.