In 2018, they had an oversized check for over $47,000 made out to the Fisher House.

South Texas VA Fisher House program manager Erik Zielinski and the team from Voluntary Services were exhausted but satisfied. They had eclipsed the donation marks set from the previous eight events. They thought they had reached the summit.

That was until the 2019 South Texas Veterans Courage Classic Golf Tournament hosted by United Rentals concluded. The generosity of the sponsors surpassed last year’s mark with a total of $63,388.50.

Almost 200 golfers–a total of 51 teams–snuck in under the rapidly changing South Texas weather to compete against each another and the host courses: Fair Oaks and Blackjack, in Boerne, Texas.

Many of the golfers represented local businesses and organizations proud to support Veteran families and the Fisher House mission.

Veteran Dan Blasini, pictured golfing above, presented his prosthetist a photo of him golfing and gave her kudos for building his prosthetic that allowed him to golf.

Since its inception, the Fisher House program has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $451 million in out of pocket costs for lodging and transportation.

Home away from home for heroes

Zielinski thanked the packed room for attending. “Thank you for your support because we wouldn’t be able to provide this home away from home for our heroes’ families when they are hospitalized.”

Zielinksi introduced the special guest for the tournament, Alec Alcoser, who was given an exuberant welcome and a standing ovation. His family stayed at the Fisher House during his rehabilitation.

Alcoser was a patient at the South Texas VA Polytrauma Center. He was featured in a story on the recovery he and his dog Alex faced when their patrol was ambushed by a suicide bomber.

On August 6, 2018, his mother got the call all military family members dread. “My mother got a call from casualty affairs. ‘He probably isn’t going to make it and if he does, he won’t be coherent.’” In addition to multiple shrapnel wounds, Alcoser suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Family nearby fundamental to his goals

Dr. Blessen Eapen, Alcoser’s treating physician, said family can make a difference.

“Alec’s family across the street at the Fisher House helped motivate him with his therapies. Their involvement was fundamental to his successful community reintegration goals.”

One of Alcoser’s physical therapists, Rebecca Garcia, echoed Eapen’s philosophy. “The ability of family to be nearby while their loved one is recovering from injury has a huge impact on morale and motivation.”

She added that even if family aren’t in the treatment room, knowing they are right across the street and can be there in a moment’s notice, reduces stress for both patient and family.

Alcoser said that the Fisher House was there for his family when they needed it. He said it was a blessing because the only thing his mother had to worry about was being by her son’s bedside.

“I was able to adopt my dog Alex because he also needed a home during my recovery. Because of the Fisher House, Alex had a home as well. I cannot thank you guys enough.”

Fisher House Foundation builds comfort homes where military and Veterans’ families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital.

Steven Goetsch is a public affairs specialist for the South Texas VA, in San Antonio.

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Published on Dec. 19, 2019

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