Remarks by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson - Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson

Fisher House Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Gala
Washington, DC
September 16, 2015

A couple years ago, I went to West Point for the first home game of the season. At lunch before the game, I was seated next to a young soldier. His dad, Craig, introduced me to his son, Army Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg.

All of America got to meet Cory when the President introduced him during his 2014 State of the Union address. By then, Cory was already famous at the Fisher House in Tampa, Florida.

A few years earlier, Sergeant Remsburg had been one of nine Army Rangers whose vehicle was hit by a 300-pound IED outside Kandahar. All were casualties. One Ranger was killed, another lost a leg, and a third—Cory Remsburg—was thrown into a nearby canal, the right side of his head shattered and caved in.

Cory underwent six surgeries at military hospitals in Afghanistan, Germany, and Bethesda, before arriving weeks later at the VA polytrauma center in Tampa. He was comatose—in a state doctors described as “vegetative”—and his odds for recovery were not great.

But Cory’s family and VA’s doctors, nurses, and therapists never gave up. They rallied to his side, working his limbs, massaging his body, and stimulating his brain with a wide variety of sensory experiences—from his favorite music to aroma therapy to TV sitcoms—everything they could think of to bring him to consciousness.

Three months after the blast, Cory woke up, becoming one of the seven-out-of-ten patients with severe TBI brought back to life through VA’s Emerging Consciousness program.

But Cory’s recovery was just beginning. He spent the next year in therapy in Tampa.

Through all that time, his mother and father were at his side, together or in turns—thanks to the compassion and generosity of the Fisher House Foundation.

All told, Craig and Annie Remsburg spent two-and-half weeks at the Fisher House in Landstuhl, Germany; five weeks at the Fisher House in Bethesda, Maryland; and over 400 days and nights at the Fisher House in Tampa.

Not only did Fisher Houses save Craig and Annie a fortune on temporary accommodations, they spared the Remsburgs much of the inconvenience of living far from home. They played a part in Corey’s recovery, making it possible for his parents to be there at his side. They also provided his parents with a much-needed support group—an extended family of Fisher House residents who endured their trials together, bearing each other’s burdens, comforting and encouraging each other through the long months of recovery, sharing hopes and fears as they shared meals.

Perhaps most importantly, Fisher House sent a message of gratitude from the American people. Every time they walked in the front door of a Fisher House, it was the American people saying, “Thank you!”

Cory’s back home now in Phoenix, in therapy five days a week, for three or four hours a day. Speaking and walking are still a challenge, but he swims, works out with weights, and bikes up to 20 miles on his recumbent bicycle.

Just today, his proud dad, Craig, emailed me with the news that Cory is learning to drive again. He’s still a Ranger at heart. His mother says he never admits to being tired, and he won’t stop an exercise until he’s told to.

Cory’s parents are back in Phoenix, also, close enough to help out when needed. But when Cory needed them most, they were there for him because the Fisher House Foundation was there for them. Annie Remsburg says, “I can never say enough good about Fisher House. . . . It was a Godsend.”

To Ken and Tammy Fisher, to the whole Fisher family, and to everyone who shares in the wonderful work of the Fisher House Foundation: Congratulations on 25 glorious years of truly exceptional service.

25th anniversaries are supposed to be silver anniversaries, but Craig Remsburg wants you to know that, in his words, “What you do for the parents, spouses, and caregivers is golden.”

On behalf of the Remsburgs, of all Veterans and their families, and of all of us at the Department of Veterans Affairs: Thank you for the real difference you make.