Ken Fischer

As Ken Fisher (shown above with Superbowl tickets in hand), a Marine Corps dog handler, patrolled the streets of Afghanistan for bombs with his military dog, his life changed in an instant when an explosion severely injured both of them. Determined to stay with his dog after the accident, the duo began his excruciatingly painful recovery process at Walter Brooks Medical Center.

Freshly wounded, Fisher was invited by Brian McKee (BS ASE ’80) to attend a football game with other wounded troops. With long days of intensive physical therapy and living alone, many of these troops aren’t able to get out and enjoy fresh air often.

McKee and friend Kevin Phelps decided to change this in 2011 when they founded Operation Enduring Respect (OER) to thank wounded service men and women for their patriotism and sacrifices by taking them to sporting events. The idea for the non-profit was hatched when a friend of McKee’s came home from his third deployment to Iraq with the Texas National Guard. They took wounded troops to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio for the first time that year and had such a great time that they decided to take it to the next level.
Since its inception two years ago, OER has sent 450 wounded soldiers from Brooks Army Medical Center and Walter Reed Medical Center to a variety of football games, including the Super Bowl and several UT football games. 

In addition to watching the games, many soldiers have had the opportunity to meet UT head football coach Mack Brown, current UT football players and former Longhorn all-stars including, Jordan Shipley.

Military personnel are close to McKee’s heart since his service at Edwards Air Force Base as an engineer.

“During the 1970s, veterans were treated poorly. They came back from serving overseas and had very little support,” McKee said. “The government is doing a much better job this time. They are provided with two to three years of support and job training. I wanted to do more than just put a ribbon on my bumper.”

McKee has witnessed the transformational recovery process of many soldiers. Steven is another example.

Steven attended the first UT football game that OER hosted the fall season after his injury. He recently had his leg amputated about the knee and was frail – 6’1 and weighing in at a meager 110 pounds. During that game, McKee told some of the other wounded soldiers that in the past they had taken troops to the Super Bowl. Steven was excited about the opportunity to attend the Super Bowl, too.

The following year, Steven grew stronger and reached a healthy weight of 160 pounds. He was on crutches and fairly mobile. Eventually, he attended another OER-hosted Longhorn game, but this time with a prosthetic leg.

“I told him I didn’t recognize him because he had two shoes on,” McKee joked.

Steven’s progress has been remarkable – and his wish was finally granted this year as he traveled with McKee and ten other soldiers to watch the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.

McKee’s dedication to brave wounded soldiers has changed their lives and given them a boost of encouragement to keep going. WWII, Vietnam and Korean War veterans have also participated in the OER program. He hopes that others will help give back to the troops who put their lives on the line for us.

“Everyone can do something to help these guys,” McKee said. “And if they can’t figure out how, they can do it through us. They can contribute money, football tickets, parking passes or food for our tailgating.”
McKee pays for all of OER’s overhead costs out of pocket to ensure that 100 percent of all donations are used to directly help the soldiers. He takes care of all the logistics himself, raises the money, buys the tickets from the Longhorn Association and then hands them over to the hospital.

As for Fisher, he is still with his dog – and after recovering from his combat wounds, he too was able to witness Super Bowl XLVII in person.

For more information on Operation Enduring Respect, visit www.enduringrespect.com.

 

Brian McKee with WIALD members
Brian McKee is the cofounder of Millennium Engineering and Integration. He oversees the company’s long-range vision and growth strategy, relying on his extensive technical experience in flight test planning analysis, modeling, simulation and testing of new technologies for launch vehicles, spacecraft and missile defense weapons systems. For the past three years, McKee and Millennium have generously given to the ASE/EM Department to support the Texas Spacecraft Lab (TSL), WIALD (Women in Aerospace for Engineering Leadership Development) and the Women in Aerospace scholarship program. He is seen in the photo above with members of WIALD.