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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Visit to Fisher House, Where Wounded Soldiers are Treated; Wynonna Judd and Gary Sinise Support Fisher House
Aired January 19, 2007 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, country superstar Wynnona Judd.
WYNONNA JUDD, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: My job is to lift up the spirits of these people who put their butts on the line every day so my family's free.
KING: "CSI" star Gary Sinise.
GARY SINISE, ACTOR: You help somebody out who has, you know, taken a hit for the country.
KING: And some true American heroes, inspiring profiles, encouraged and caring.
JUDD: I mean, I get goose bumps.
KING: Inside the Fisher Houses, homes away from home for America's wounded troops and their families.
SINISE: When I left there, I felt that I'd -- you know, it wasn't about me. It was about them.
KING: An hour you won't soon forget, next on "LARRY KING LIVE."
One note about our show tonight, my crew and I spent the day touring Fisher House in San Diego earlier this week, and visiting some of the injured troops being treated nearby. Throughout the show tonight, we'll be showing you clips of our visit.
We'll have many guests joining us tonight. With us throughout the program is Ken Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation. There are 36 Fisher Houses in 16 states and one in Germany.
What -- what is Fisher House?
KEN FISHER, CHAIRMAN, FISHER HOUSE FOUNDATION: Larry, Fisher House is a home away from home, for families of sick or injured military servicemen or women, to stay in, essentially for free, while their loved one is recovering.
KING: A little history?
FISHER: It began in 1990 by my late Uncle Zack Fisher. Zack was a true patriot in every sense of the word. And it was brought to his attention that there was a shortage of this kind of affordable housing. And one of the things Zack said was how can this be? I can't allow this to happen. That was Zack. And he essentially put the program together, because he couldn't imagine somebody being in the hospital, who has given so much to this nation, and not being able to have their family there with them.
KING: So it was an out-growth of the first Gulf War?
FISHER: It actually began after the first Gulf War, Larry, in peace time. In those days, the need wasn't as great obviously as it is today. So the size of the houses were smaller. And obviously the need wasn't as great. So there wasn't as many people needing this program.
KING: This was your uncle that started it. But what did your father have to do with it?
FISHER: Well, my father actually -- when Zack passed away, my father became the chairman. And we had another tragedy in the family. And Dad actually moved over to run the Intrepid Museum. And out of the Intrepid Museum came the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which my father is honorary chairman of.
My father is also a great American also, Arnold Fisher. And put together a program that built a 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio that's going to open in about two weeks.
KING: Why this family interest in the military?
FISHER: Well, you know it kind of -- it was born with Zack. Zack always believed that it was our obligation to give back to a nation that had been so great to us.
Zack and his brother -- brothers, Larry and Martin, began in classic immigrant style. And the country had been great to them. And they had prospered here. And really, it was that desire to give back to this nation, and especially to the military, because these were men and women that did so much, and got so little. And Zack always considered them to be the greatest national treasure.
KING: Now these buildings -- and we were at the one in San Diego, which we'll be seeing throughout the show tonight -- they're located near hospitals, right?
KING: Near veterans hospitals were servicemen are treated.
FISHER: Well, it -- that's correct. It's active military hospitals, like San Diego, and also at V.A. hospitals around the country.
KING: What -- without Fisher House, before Fisher House, how were the families housed or treated who had servicemen wounded?
FISHER: Well, there was, in some cases, there was base housing that was not for free. There was a charge associated with that. And if they couldn't get into that housing, then they would essentially have to pay for hotel rooms.
KING: Period. Nothing was done really...
KING: ... of a -- in our nation. Now, Fisher House works closely -- you give the house to the government, right?
FISHER: Yes. The houses are built and then they're gifted to whichever branch of the military they serve. And at that branch of the military -- will take control of the house. They'll staff it, and they'll maintain it going forward. So that frees the foundation up really to do further construction of houses that are needed in other locations. And we don't have to essentially fund-raise for maintaining the houses.
KING: So someone gets injured in Iraq, they're brought back. They go to a base somewhere, a hospital somewhere. And hopefully, there is nearby a Fisher House to where their wife or their mother or whatever can go and stay during their stay?
FISHER: That's correct. And we work very closely with each branch of the military, with the surgeons general. And we work very closely with them to find out where the needs are, and what they think the future needs are going to be.
So, you know, where we have the Fisher Houses now, in some cases, we're beefing that up. And in other cases, we're focusing primarily on the veterans.
KING: We'll be talking through the program tonight. How you raise money, how the goes, how it's allotted.
Let's go to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I've been to Fort Campbell. It's a great base.
Staff Sergeant Harold Ord is there; his wife Kristi. Harold is with the 506th Infantry at Fort Campbell. His right ankle and lower leg were shattered by a mortar round last June. He was in Ramadi on his second tour of duty when it happened.
What happened, Harold? Were you in a vehicle?
HAROLD ORD, STAFF SERGEANT, 506TH INFANTRY: No, sir. I was working in a building, and a mortar round came in and landed pretty close to me, close enough to throw me about 30 feet. And that was pretty much it.
KING: Were you in shock or did you feel a lot of pain?
ORD: I didn't feel much at first. It kind of knocked me out. But as soon as I came to my senses and everything, I was in some pain. But they got to me quick and got me out of there.
KING: Now, when Harold was hurt, Kristi, you and Logan, your son, you were in West Virginia where you live? How did you make the arrangements to come to Fort Campbell?
KRISTI ORD, WIFE OF HAROLD FISHER: The Fisher Foundation actually used Hero Miles and flew me up to see him when he got hurt, so. And didn't...
KING: Do you stay in a Fisher House now?
K. ORD: No, not now. Currently, we do not.
KING: But you have stayed in it, right?
K. ORD: Yes, we stayed in it for almost a month after he got injured.
KING: What was that -- was it -- that must have been a Godsend to you.
K. ORD: Yes, it was nice, just to feel comfortable and feel at home.
KING: What's available for Logan at Fisher House?
K. ORD: Oh, they've got plenty of toys and movies and enough stuff for him to play with and keep him occupied.
KING: That second tour of duty, Harold, were you happy about going back again?
ORD: I have no problem with going back. It's my job, it's my duty and that's what I do.
KING: How permanently are you, if permanently, disabled?
ORD: I really don't know yet. I'm going through medical evaluation right now, so that they can see what I can and can't do.
KING: How do you feel, Harold, about Fisher House?
ORD: Oh, it's a great organization. And it's a great thing to have. We probably -- we would have had a rough time without it. It's helped out a lot of people.
KING: Now, when you went to Fisher House, Kristi, you used something called Hero Miles. What are Hero Miles?
K. ORD: Yes, sir. By my understanding, people can donate their unused miles. And in situations like this, where people need to be flown, to see their spouse or whatever, they use those. So that way, you don't have any out-of-pocket expense.
KING: Good luck, Sergeant, and thank you so much. And best to Logan.
ORD: Thank you.
KING: Staff Sergeant Harold Ord, his wife, Kristi, and their son, Logan, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, more beneficiaries of Fisher House. That mileage idea is terrific, too.
FISHER: It's just been a phenomenal program.
KING: Ken Fisher, chairman of Fisher House Foundation remains with us.
A little later, Grammy-winner, Wynnona Judd on the benefits of organizations like Fisher House.
You'll also get to look at CNN's Warrior 1, that's the hummer that helped us cover the war and will now be used to help raise money for Fisher House.
Up next, Oscar-nominated actor Gary Sinise. He'll talk about the work he does for our troops when he's not working on "CSI: New York."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN G. BRA (ph), REAR ADMIRAL, NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER: Fisher House is a live saver for us. It enables us to treat the whole Sailor and the whole Marine. Because you get the family with them, you're not just treating the individual. You treat the whole family. And that enables them to keep them close. They're partners in the care. They get reacquainted. And they get used to dealing with their life from here on.
KING: Where would you be?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Driving back and forth, wasting gas money.
KING: You're pregnant. You're almost going to give birth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what we'd have done.
KING: You've got a husband in severe shape. You've got a 4- year-old daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Um-hum.
KING: This place is a savior.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Um-hum.
KING: She's in a great place, your wife, in the Fisher Houses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Yes. I mean, I can't, you know...
KING: They took good care of them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Oh, yes. It's just -- I guess it's just right down there, so.
KING: Yes. Just walked up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: It's just a walk away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Where were you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: I was in Fallujah.
KING: You don't have to tell me but do you have any feelings about the war?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Go 124. Keep on getting bad guys. That's what my feelings are right there.
KING: Are you committed to this fight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Yes, sir. We've got to watch out for my buddies all of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now, one of my favorite actors in Hollywood, Gary Sinise, the star of "CSI: New York." Oscar nominated for his role as Lieutenant Dan Taylor in "Forrest Gump". And a member of the Lieutenant Dan Band, which will perform at Fisher House Benefit later this month in Washington, D.C.
What got you and Fisher House together, Gary?
GARY SINISE, ACTOR: Hi, Larry. Thanks for having me.
SINISE: I actually met some of the folks from the Intrepid Foundation on my first trip to Iraq. I went over to Iraq in June of 2003. I met some folks that actually work with the Fisher Houses and are on the Intrepid board of directors. They had something called the Fallen Heroes Fund that I got involved with.
Through them, I met the Arnold Fisher and the Fisher family, Ken and the folks over there. And they started taking me to the Fisher Houses. And I've been involved ever since, and doing what I can to help our wounded and to support these causes.
KING: Do you think there are people who hook to the fact that people like you, who support things like this, are often necessarily supporting the concept of the war?
SINISE: Well, I've been involved with veterans groups for many, many years, so this, you know -- the difference here is that we're actively fighting a couple of wars here. And that our troops are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world, fighting terrorism, you know, post-9/11.
So, but to me, you know, its been 20 years or so since I've been involved with Vietnam veterans organizations, and the Disabled American Veterans, and organizations like that. And I've been very active with some of these things for many, many years.
KING: What's the origin of the Lieutenant Dan Band?
SINESE: Well, whenever I go out and visit the troops, as I said, I've been to Iraq a couple of times, Afghanistan. I've been to bases all over the country, and all over the world. Wherever I go, they're always calling me Lieutenant Dan.
So when I started taking a group of musicians with me to actually entertain the troops, I just went ahead and named the band Gary Sinise and the Lieutenant Dan Band. The troops seem to like that. It's sort of for them.
And you know, we're playing concerts all over. We've played over 40 concerts for the USO in the past two or three years. On January 27th, in Washington D.C., as part of the auto show there at the convention center, we're playing a concert at the convention center to raise money for the Fisher Houses. It's a great, great cause. I hope a lot of people in D.C. come out for us.
KING: Ken, how important to the Fisher House are people like Gary?
KING: Coming forward to meet the families.
FISHER: You can't thank them you have enough. As Gary pointed out, this is not about politics. Whether you ignore or disagree with what we're doing shouldn't have any bearing on whether or not we support our troops.
People like Gary and Wynnona and the other people that have been kind enough to help us out have just been a great, great help in not only helping the foundation, but bringing the plight of the families and the troops to light.
KING: Gary, you also co-founded Operation Iraqi Children. What is that?
SINISE: Well, when I went to Iraq on my second trip, I was able to visit schools in Iraq. And the troops took me on some conveys. We went out and visited schools that they had helped to rebuild, saw them interacting with the children.
And I wanted to do something to help support the kids and help support this goodwill that I was feeling between our troops and these kids. So we started sending school supplies over to the troops. And out of that, we founded operation Iraqi Children, and a website, Operationiraqichildren.org, where people from all over the country can go to the website, follow the instructions, send us some supplies or a donation.
We put the supplies together. We send them to the troops. And they take them out all over the country and give them to the kids. And to support the Fisher Houses, they're doing amazing, amazing work. The Fisher family -- I can't say enough about these folks and their dedication to helping our wounded and supporting our families.
KING: What do you get about going to Fisher House or going to Walter Reid or Bethesda, Gary?
SINISE: Larry, it's just nice to know that I can give back to these folks and that a little visit from me, you know, a little bit of my time taken, small amount of my time every day that I'm in D.C. And I can visit the hospitals or, you know, go to the bases around the country, when I play with my band.
Just a little bit of that time can make a big difference in some of these folks' lives. I've been to the hospitals now six or seven times in Washington. I've been to Landstuhl in Germany.
You know, whenever I go there, I feel that I've helped, and I've done something, and it's rewarding to know that I can give back to these people, who are, you know, volunteers to go out and defend our country. And they're making a lot of sacrifices for us, and their Families do as well. And they deserve our support.
KING: Isn't it also for you a little painful?
SINISE: Well, Larry, it's not, you know, it's sometimes very, very hard to see the types of injuries that we see at the hospitals, and to see what a lot of these folks have gone through. But I've also come out of the hospitals feeling incredibly inspired by the bravery, the courage and the determination in the hearts and minds of these great service members that we have.
The first time -- I've got to tell you, the first time I went to a hospital back in '03, I was apprehensive about it. I was concerned. I didn't know how I would feel. But when I left there, I felt that I had -- you know, it wasn't about me. It was about them. And so you feel like you're going in there and, just by being there, just by coming into a room, shaking some hands, signing some autographs, getting a picture taken, that you've helped somebody out, who has, you know, taken a hit for the country.
And it's hard, but it's also a good feeling to know that you can do something to help somebody.
KING: We salute you Gary. Continued good fortune, too.
SINISE: Thank you very much.
KING: Don't forget, Gary Sinise and his band.
SINISE: Thank you very much, Larry.
KING: My pleasure. Lieutenant Dan Taylor, the band, the Lieutenant Dan Band will perform January 27th in Washington. Hook up with the auto show. We'll be hooking up with the auto show, too, because we're going to give away -- well, not give away. We'll going to auction off the Hummer that we had in Iraq. It will be auctioned off the benefits, all of them, will go to the Fisher House.
When we come back, Grammy-winning country music star Wynnona Judd on the importance on supporting our returning troops and the good deeds being done by Fisher House.
As we go to break, more of our visit with injured troops and their families in San Diego. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Where were you hit?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: I was shot in the upper thigh -- femur. Went through my thigh, went through my femur, totally shattered my femur. And then the round kind of went through my buttocks, you know. And I got the round in my right...
KING: Buttock? Still there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Yes, it's still there.
KING: Will it have it all forever?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: I'm going to have it forever.
KING: Any jokes about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Yes, it's a conversation starter I think, so I'll be...
KING: What are you going to do about walking?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Walking? My leg is improving a lot. You can do a lot with the crutches. I still can't put my weight on it yet because my bone hasn't healed up yet. But it just, you know, is going to be time.
KING: Good luck to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Thank you so much, sir.
KING: Get well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fisher House is a blessing for them, because they're able to stay here with the little ones, and participate in their care. And this enables them to stay as a family unit from the get-go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time my husband got in a wheelchair, she was really excited. She clapped. Yeah, Daddy, go, go. So she really gets him going.
KING: You have a beautiful girl, Maryann.
KING: Uh-oh. That would be great for the show just give birth here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.
KING: You could just give birth here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't think I want to have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Remaining with us, Ken Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation. There are 35 Fisher Houses in 16 states and one in Germany. We're devoting this entire program tonight as a salute to Fisher House.
We'll talk about that Hummer giveaway later.
We welcome our old friend Wynnona Judd, the Grammy-winning country music superstar was honored in 2005 with the USO's Merit Award for her support of the United States military. She's in Nashville.
What do you think about what Fisher House does, Wynnona?
JUDD: I think there's nothing more important than support in a time of illness. As you know, my mom was sick. When she got sick, I remember thinking the most important thing is a support group, which became our family, hope.
And I heard Mr. Fisher talk about home away from home, home, family. And I think this is important, because I've been to sort of Bethesda and Walter Reid and I've seen the looks on the faces of the families waiting out in the hallway, you know, with their loved one in the room. That fear of not knowing what's going on.
I think it's important for us to support these families in their time of need. And so I'm here today just to say hoo-ah. And to say I could not support it more.
I believe in -- I just believe in allowing these people to be together, you know. I travel a lot. I can't imagine waking up in a strange place every day. If someone I love is in the hospital and I have, you know, everything scattered, you're with a way from home. So it's a very transient time for some. And so these places provide a place for people to have a kitchen and a living room and beds, something's the same every day. You know what I mean?
KING: Why do you make so many trips to Fort Campbell?
JUDD: Well, I don't like to talk about it publicly, because I do it personally. I do it -- I met a man, General Cote (ph), back when he was the two-star there at Fort Campbell. And he and his family have become my family. I go up there because I've met a lot of the families. I've sung up there to raise money for the college kids. And I just believe in doing my part.
I'm a musician. I'm a singer. I'm not a politician. I show up and I sing. And my job is to enlighten and lift up the spirits of these people who put their butts on the line every day so my family is free.
So I go there, because it blesses me. I watch them come in. I watch them leave and it keeps me aware of just how blessed I am and that freedom isn't free. And so i'm just doing my part. You can blame my mother. She taught me to appreciate the things I have, when freedom is everything. I have a song called "Freedom" that I sing.
And so thank God for Zack Fisher. Thank God for a place for these families to go, for anywhere to belong. And so i'm just showing up, suiting up and showing up. And i'm in the Lord's army. And here I am.
KING: Wynnona, have you ever visited a Fisher House?
JUDD: I have not. Sign me up, because I am absolutely willing. I tell people, you know, Wynnona Incorporated, just call me. I'm on duty. I will absolutely do that.
KING: Tell you -- I'll have -- Ken, you'll get in touch with her?
FISHER: Oh, it'll be a pleasure.
KING: And you'll arrange that. Wynonna, come see.
FISHER: It would be a thrill to have her there.
JUDD: Well, I love parades. Just remember that.
JUDD: And I love to celebrate family. You know the Judd story. You understand that we're on welfare. We had nothing. The fact that, for free, that these people can go and stay and not worry about having to pay the bills of a hotel. I stay in Hotels. I know what they cost. And I just I'm so excited about the fact that we're giving these families the support they need.
KING: The rewards must be tremendous for you, Ken.
FISHER: They are, Larry. You know, it's very humbling. I know my wife, Tammy, and I, when we go to the hospitals, as we did the other day in San Diego and we see these families, and the wounded serviceman or woman, and they thank you. And it just -- it just gets you, because you know, you're doing what you feel is the right thing. But they did the heavy lifting. They had the hard part.
JUDD: Larry? KING: Yes?
JUDD: The part that really got me was, when I went in to visit these soldiers, most of them said -- and I'll never forget these words -- "If I had it to do over, I would still have done what I did," even though their limbs are missing. Their hearts are full. They're doing their -- I mean, we don't have to agree on war here today. We just need to support these people who are willing to go live in these conditions, and put their butt on the line.
And when I go in to see them and they're looking back at me and saying action "Ma'am it's been a privilege to serve my country." I mean, I get goose bumps because I walk out of that room realizing would I be willing to do that?
And these kids, these families are willing to do it. And I don't -- I can't -- humble is the word. You're absolutely right, because you go away with this feeling of thank you, thank you for supporting my family. And so it's awesome.
KING: I want you to definitely go visit a Fisher House, Wynnona.
JUDD: I would be glad to do that.
KING: You'll get a new appreciation for the work that Ken and his father and this foundation does.
KING: thanks, Wynnona.
JUDD: Love you.
KING: Good seeing you. Wynonna Judd. Love you, too.
Ken, how much did the foundation start -- when you started 17 years ago, how much did you start with?
FISHER: Well, Larry, 17 years ago, this foundation was started by Zack. And Zack used to build these houses with the money out of his own pocket. It wasn't until the need became great that the foundation was formed. But Zack essentially did this by himself.
KING: How much money do you raise every year?
FISHER: That's tough to say. We've had some good years but only by virtue of the fact that, you know, we've got this action going on and the need has increased so much.
LARRY KING, HOST: Coming up next, Fisher House isn't just for spouses and kids of our injured troops. In our next segment, a mom who is reaping the benefits of the foundation. Stick around.
FISHER: The beauty part of the house is, is that the families will sit together. They will eat together. It has become a support network in this house, so that it is not just families having a place to sleep. It is getting together and supporting each other, helping each other through bad days, sharing the joy on good days. That is the beauty part of the house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is a nice, open environment for the families. It doesn't feel like you're in this institution. You feel like you're just part of the, you know, part of the community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like it here. I have met a lot of people. They gave me my options -- what do you want to do? -- and I told them I'd rather be closer to family. This is where we grew up.
KING: How long you two married?
CORPORAL ISAAC ZAHN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Going on three years.
KING: So you got married before he went to Iraq, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh...
ZAHN: Oh, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... this is his third tour, so yes.
KING: Are you happy about his going?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not happy about it, but I married into it, so...
ZAHN: She knew what she was getting into before she married me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I waited two years after he was in the military.
KING: How were you wounded?
ZAHN: I got hit by an I.E.D.
KING: What was the injury?
ZAHN: I shattered my heel in multiple places, and multiple fractures in my foot, and tore a lot of ligaments and tendons and stuff. That's about it.
KING: Going to rebuild your leg?
ZAHN: In about a week.
KING: Will you be able to walk again? ZAHN: Hopefully, yes.
KING: Was it painful?
KING: You know, there are some people who go into shock and they don't experience any pain.
ZAHN: Yes, well, I didn't feel nothing for the first 15, 20 minutes, but after that, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He walked on it.
ZAHN: It got pretty painful.
KING: Why do you want to stay?
ZAHN: Someone's got to do it.
KING: But someone would understand if you were a little bitter.
ZAHN: Not at all. It's not bitter. If anything, I mean, I knew what I was getting into. I like it. It's a fun job.
KING: Joining us now from Palo Alto, California, is Denise Mettie. Her son, Evan, was critically injured last January in Iraq. She is staying at Fisher House in Palo Alto while Evan gets treatment and therapy at the nearby VA hospital.
Now, get this. Denise, he was originally declared dead?
DENISE METTIE: He was, I believe, called in "killed in action."
KING: And were you told that?
METTIE: No, we were not.
KING: So how did you hear all about the original and then the new?
METTIE: Well, through the course of the year, I have gotten to meet several people involved in his evacuation from the site, and the medic that took care of him, and his unit, and the medic was the one that was telling me that she arrived 15 to 20 minutes after the explosion, and he had been called in as killed in action.
When she arrived to the Humvee, he was still inside, and she checked him, and he was breathing. So, she is the one who maintained his air supply, got him on the helicopter to take him in to the nearest medical facility.
KING: Wow. How is he doing?
METTIE: He is very healthy. To look at him, you would really not know that he had a severe traumatic brain injury. We are getting small progressions -- hand raises, he will lift his head up in movement, he will occasionally smile. This is all after a year's worth of getting him to this place.
KING: Now you are staying at a Fisher House.
METTIE: I am.
KING: How often do you stay there? How often do you go home? How do you work your life?
METTIE: In the past year, I have stayed at two Fisher Houses, one in October when he had his surgery to replace his skull and I was there for about three weeks, and then we arrived here November 30, and I have been here almost continually. I did go home for a few days at Christmastime, and the remaining of the year I have spent staying mostly in motels.
KING: Did you say "replace his skull"?
METTIE: Yes. When he was initially injured, he took shrapnel to the left portion of his brain and they performed a craniotomy in Balad, where they removed his skull -- a good portion of it on the lefthand side -- probably from here all the way back.
KING: What does Fisher House mean to you?
METTIE: Oh, Fisher House is a godsend. The first time I stayed in one was in October when he was having his surgery at Fort Lewis. That was the first time I have been in a situation where there were other people around me with loved ones in the hospital, and you could bond and really get to know the people and feel comfortable about where you were and secure.
KING: What is the prognosis for his future?
METTIE: Well, we don't really know. We don't know how much he is going to be able to come back. My thought is, we take it a day at a time. We just keep on going and, you know, the good Lord brought him back to us and the good Lord is seeing us through this.
KING: You quit your job in order to be close to him. How do you earn a living?
METTIE: I don't. My husband and two daughters, they are at home. They are taking care of everything there. My goal is to be with Evan and stay with him and be his advocate, and so, since I quit work, we are missing my income. We come from a very small community, Selah, Washington -- absolutely fantastic community. They did a fundraiser for us mid-November, raised enough money to help us so that I can stay with Evan for another year.
KING: Debbie, you have incredible fortitude. Give him our best wishes.
METTIE: Thank you, Larry.
KING: What a story, huh, Ken?
FISHER: You know, it's amazing, Larry, but the unsung heroes in this whole action are the doctors and the nurses. The world class health care that these men and women are receiving right now is just incredible.
KING: Coming up, another story of heroism and the help offered by Fisher House when LARRY KING LIVE continues.
FISHER: ... because they have been through enough trauma, the families, and they are kind of the forgotten entity because, obviously, you focus on the troops, and rightfully so. But the families also make a great sacrifice, so that's why when they came to our house, we wanted the house to make it feel that they are home.
These doctors and nurses are the unsung heroes -- that a soldier wounded today on the battlefield has a better than 93 percent chance of survival.
KING: Now, you're a hero, too. Families are just as important.
FISHER: My Uncle Zach and Aunt Elizabeth, who founded this whole program, when it was brought to their attention, quite simply, that there was this need, that there was a need for affordable houses for families of sick or injured personnel. What began as a desire to continue a legacy for us became a passion, and there is just no way out of it now.
KING: We go to Fisher House at Walter Reed Hospital. Standing by, Staff Sgt. Ross Graydon, his wife, Jamie, and that beautiful little daughter, Brittney. Graydon was hit by a roadside bomb last July during his second tour of Iraq. He spent more than five weeks at Walter Reed before being discharged.
What kind of injuries did you have, Sergeant?
STAFF SGT. ROSS GRAYDON, U.S. ARMY: I lost my left arm pretty high, close to my shoulder, and I took lots of shrapnel to my right lower leg.
KING: How are you doing with recovery? Are you going to be perfectly OK, other than, of course, missing the arm? GRAYDON: Yes, I think, overall, I'm going to be pretty good. I'm still -- lost a lot of movement in my right leg due to the injury, so I'm still trying to recover from that, and be able to gain full movement of my foot again.
KING: How long will you be at Fisher House, Ross?
GRAYDON: To be honest with you, I'm not 100 percent sure. I'm hoping to be out of here by late February, early March time frame. I'm in the process now of trying to finish up final paperwork and get out of here.
KING: Jamie, what is it like there?
JAMIE GRAYDON: It is pretty nice. If you can't be at your house, it's pretty nice -- very comfortable. Everybody is friendly, so you've got a nice internal support system working for you. So, since I'm here, it's nice.
KING: Brittney, how old are you?
BRITTNEY GRAYDON: Ten.
KING: How is your dad doing?
BRITTNEY GRAYDON: To me, he's doing great. He loves having the family there with him.
KING: Are they taking good care of you at Fisher House, Brittney?
BRITTNEY GRAYDON: Yes, they are.
KING: Do you get to go to school?
BRITTNEY GRAYDON: Yes, I do.
KING: Sergeant, do you ever feel regretful over what happened?
ROSS GRAYDON: No, not at all. You know, I was just doing my job, like anybody else will tell you. I joined the army because I wanted to, and I don't feel regretful at all. You know, like the one lady was saying, if I had to do it all over again, I probably -- I wouldn't really change anything.
KING: How are you getting used to that new limb?
ROSS GRAYDON: It's not bad. It's really different. I have a couple multiple different arms I can choose from I'm getting used to, and depending on which one I like more than the other, but I'm getting really good at it. So it doesn't replace the actual arm, but it comes in real handy.
KING: What does it feel like for you, Brittney? Different?
BRITTNEY GRAYDON: I really don't know -- yes, different. KING: Kind of different.
BRITTNEY GRAYDON: A lot different, but I still get to hold it, like the real hand, and...
KING: You still able to hug, right?
BRITTNEY GRAYDON: Yes -- get lots of hugs.
KING: Jamie, do you have any regrets over Ross's service?
JAMIE GRAYDON: No, none. You know, you're in this as a family, every step of the way. So, no regrets.
KING: How is the treatment at Walter Reed, Ross?
ROSS GRAYDON: The treatment here is great. It really is. Everybody I deal with, from the therapists to the doctors, to the surgeons, they were -- everyone is really professional. They do -- they go out of their way to help you and give you everything you need for a quick and speedy recovery.
KING: You know, Graydons, Ken Fisher, the chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, has been with us through the whole program. We taped it earlier in the week. It is airing Saturday night. Ken, what do you want to say to -- this must make you so proud.
FISHER: It absolutely does, and this is exactly why we do what we do, is to see the three of them together and to wonder what it would have been like had they not been able to be there, how it would have influenced his recovery.
So, of course, it is a wonderful feeling to see them together, and what Ross said was, you know, was so apropos of what all of our men and women that have been wounded have been saying, which is they have no regrets. They would do it all over again. But even more important is the fact that they always say to me, "When can I get back to my unit? I want to get back to my unit."
KING: Thank you, Graydons, and continued good luck, and when we come back...
ROSS GRAYDON: Thank you.
JAMIE GRAYDON: Thank you.
KING: ... You're welcome, guys -- the CNN journalist who manned Warrior One and brought you the latest from Iraq, and a few details how you can park it permanently in your own garage. Yeah.
We'll be right back.
KING: How you doing?
LANCE CORPORAL LUKAS BELL, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I'm doing all right. I'm doing better.
KING: You got married?
BELL: Yeah, I got married, yes, sir.
KING: Were you married right here?
BELL: Actually it was down the hall in this little lounge area. It was pretty nice, actually.
KING: I got married in a hospital bed, too. I was so groggy I almost married my best friend. There were so many people standing around. When did you get here?
BELL: I showed up here the 12th of December.
KING: When were you wounded?
BELL: I got shot on Dec. 7.
KING: How long were you into your mission -- I mean, into your stay in Iraq?
BELL: Stay in Iraq? About two months, a couple days maybe.
KING: What is it, a six-month?
BELL: Yes, a seven-month deployment.
KING: Well, I wish you nothing but luck, the two of you. A great way to start a marriage, huh?
BELL: Yeah, kind of different, but, yeah, it's good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: We've got three miles to go to our first objective. We've lost our battalion, but we're going to go on alone. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hoorah!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: It was a pit stop that was up to Indy proportions -- incredible timing as far as coming in with a flat tire and replacing it. You have no idea if the other wheels are going to stay on. In fact, the wheels have already come off this wagon.
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: We've just had a flat. We are going to try and find the oil wells, which we are going to capture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our boys must have been pushing on down the road a piece. We're going to go check out when they're done.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Joining us from London is Scottie McWhinnie, the news photographer who spent time in CNN's Warrior One, the specially equipped Humvee being auctioned off to benefit Fisher House. What was it like in there, Scottie?
SCOTTIE McWHINNIE, CNN PHOTOGRAPHER: It was a little cramped, very noisy, and saw a lot of action.
KING: What was your role? What was the role of the Humvee?
McWHINNIE: The role of the Humvee was to get the news back of the war back to CNN, so we had a satellite dish and a roving satellite so we could feed live while the vehicle was on the go during the course of the war.
KING: Scottie, is that vehicle, for want of a better term, like a tank?
McWHINNIE: Not in the slightest. It wasn't even armor-plated, so if we'd have hit something or if a bullet had gone in, we'd have been toast, really. But it was our home for, like, a month.
KING: Not much gas mileage, right?
McWHINNIE: No. That was when it was working, actually. It broke down most of the time. So we did quite well out of gas, yes.
KING: So whoever buys Warrior One is buying this as a relic, as a kind of a symbol of status -- or, you've got it all working now?
McWHINNIE: Yes, Warrior One is done up -- it's like a customized vehicle. If I had the cash, I would definitely buy it. It's got a brand new engine in it; it's looking really sharp. But it was a heap of junk when we were driving it.
KING: It underwent some major renovations as part of a Learning Channel show called "Overhaulin'." A DVD player has been added, along with four televisions, a high-end sound system, a snazzy-looking paint job. It wasn't luxurious in the Iraqi desert, but the person who gets it will get a full, top-running machine, right?
McWHINNIE: Right, yes, it has had a lot of surgery done to it. It was like just, I said, just about worked when we had it, but it has been totally overhauled for the program, and the proceeds go to this Fisher House, which you have been talking about this evening. So it should -- I mean, it's worth a fortune, I think, at the moment.
KING: I hope we get a lot of money for it. What do you think of this, Ken, this idea?
FISHER: It is really unbelievable. You know, having this Hummer that really was part of history, really. I mean, it was, when the crew was embedded with the Marine division that went into Baghdad, it's like owning a piece of history. I was watching some of the segments from "Overhaulin'." When they took apart the engine, you could you see the desert sand coming out and so forth, and so it is really some program.
KING: When will it be auctioned?
FISHER: I believe Jan. 20 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
KING: Scottsdale, Arizona?
KING: That is a big day. A lot of CNN folk are going to be there?
KING: You'll be there?
FISHRE: Oh, absolutely.
KING: Scottie, thank you, baby. Hang tough.
McWHINNIE: I will. Thank you very much.
KING: Scottie McWhinnie, our news photographer who spent time in CNN's Warrior One. Back with our remaining moments with Ken Fisher right after this.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We're getting ready to bring you the news. In just 10 minutes, the unbelievable story of two boys that are rescued by police and the father of one of those boys who had this four years in the making, his story -- lost a leg while looking for other children as well.
Also, the teen who led police -- this young man gave them the tip that they needed to find those two boys. It's an incredible story. We'll share this with you -- all this next in the "CNN NEWSROOM." I'm Rick Sanchez. See you after LARRY KING.
KING: Our remaining moments with Ken Fisher, the chairman of the Fisher House Foundation. We have devoted the entire hour tonight to this extraordinary concept. It will wind up with the auctioning off of that Humvee on the 20th in Arizona.
You must feel very proud.
FISHER: I am, Larry. I am proud of my family. I am proud of what Fisher House has become. I am very proud, though, of the people that work with me, starting, of course, with my wife, and Dave Coker, and Jim Weiskopf and Carl Zarrello, the architect, and Jim Scully, our construction director. What we have been able to do is essentially operate this foundation as though we were building one or two houses a year, and, even though now we are embarking on a program to build 21 houses by 2010. It is just a...
KING: Shouldn't the government be doing this? In a sense? FISHER: Larry, you know, I don't know, and I don't want to get bogged down on what should or shouldn't be done. These families need this service. They need this program, and, you know, the government helps us. The government gives us a grant. The government helps us with the -- identify the land -- and the government operates the houses after we turn them over.
But the key thing to remember is, is that these are families that make sacrifices also, and, you know, this program is designed to help them. It is a support network, it is a place to stay, but, most important, it is about the families, and, you know, not about politics.
KING: How many more houses scheduled to be built?
FISHER: Well, as I say, we are going to about five, essentially, up until 2010, when the network will include 57 houses.
KING: It's an honor, Ken. Ken Fisher.
FISHER: And by the way, congratulations on 50 years in the business.
KING: Fifty years I've been in the business, come April. Never thought -- don't look a day over 49.
Ken Fisher, the chairman of the Fisher House Foundation. We have saluted them tonight. Again, for more information, fisherhouse.org.
Stay tuned for more news on your most trusted name in news, CNN. Good night.
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