Hero Miles provides free flights to wounded, injured and ill service members and their families. You can give American, Delta, United, Alaska and Frontier miles to help support this worthy cause.
Founded in 1990, the charity strives to give families a comfortable place to stay at no cost during treatment at a military or VA medical center. There are 71 Fisher Houses worldwide, which are owned and operated by the government.
The military typically offers families and service members airfare for medical emergencies only. With the help of frequent flyers who have donated their miles, Fisher House provides additional airfare to families so they can be together throughout whatever treatment is needed. The Hero Miles program was introduced to bridge the gap between what the military provides and what families need.
Kerri Childress, VP of Communication at Fisher House, says that the foundation is there to “serve the families” of service men and women. The organization does what it can to “allow families to survive and not break down.” Active service members and veterans need that support to help recover from their injuries and illnesses. They need their families to stay intact and whole.
Staff Sergeant Charles Allen
SSGT Charles “Chaz” Allen stepped on an explosive device in Afghanistan on January 22, 2011. He lost both of his legs. His wife Jessica was by his side the morning he returned to the U.S. for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.
Doctors didn’t want Jessica to be away from Chaz for more than a week during his recovery, but the young couple had two small girls at home and they wanted their lives to remain as normal as possible. They decided that Jessica would fly every week between their home in Tennessee and Walter Reed so she could spend alternating weeks with their kids and Chaz.
The Army paid for Jessica’s initial flight to DC, but they wouldn’t pay for more. The couple wasn’t sure how they’d be able to afford weekly plane tickets during Chaz’s recovery, but they knew that it was best for the family. They were determined to make it work, even if it meant burning through their savings and possibly going into debt.
That’s when Fisher House and Hero Miles stepped in. The program was able to provide the Allen family with free airfare so they could heal the way they needed to. “I had no idea something this fabulous was in existence,” says Jessica. “It took such a stress off us.”
Chaz retired from the Army in 2013 and the entire Allen family is now at home in Tennessee.
Miles Are Needed Now
Since the Hero Miles program started, frequent flyers have given enough miles to provide service members and their families more than 63,000 tickets worth nearly $100 million. That’s impressive, but there’s a need for more donations.
The impact of over a decade of war in the Middle East will be felt for a long time to come. Back in 2012 the VA estimated that about 5,000 military personnel would be so severely wounded that they’d need full-time caregivers for the rest of their lives.
Currently there are 15,000 vets in that program, and the number keeps growing. Fisher House helps those service members by providing a free ticket for a loved one to fly in and provide respite for the caregiver. That need will continue for a long time. Most of the veterans in the program are young and they will likely require support for the next 50+ years.
The Hero Miles program is low on miles, according to Childress. Longer expiration periods for miles and easier transfer options to family and friends have negatively impacted donations in recent years. Hero Miles is running out of miles and donations are needed.
“Even a thousand miles makes a difference,” says Childress. And every mile you give will go to a service member, so you know exactly what your donation is being used for.
More Ways to Give
Through the end of November, Delta has pledged to match donations to the Hero Miles program. You can make your miles count double. Of course miles from other partners, including Alaska, American, United and Frontier are always welcome.
If you don’t have extra miles, Fisher House also accepts points as part of its Hotels for Heroes program. Participating hotels include AmericInn, Best Western, Choice Hotels, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Marriot and Wyndham. Those points give veterans and their families a place to stay when a Fisher House is not available.