Patriotic Pony At the South Texas VA Fisher House

This is Army Sgt. Michael Murphrey. He completed multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. On his third tour, he made the ultimate sacrifice on 6 September, 2009. The 25-year-old from Snyder, Texas, was killed in Paktika province, Afghanistan, after enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

This is Michael...father...soldier...patriot

Photos courtesy of the Murphrey Family

To honor his sacrifice, his older sister submitted his name for consideration to the Patriotic Pony Program. The idea behind Patriotic Ponies, from the Hero's Rock website: "When a wounded warrior comes home, his family shares the journey of recovery. It is often a long and tedious journey. The Fisher House provides free housing for families of wounded warriors. With that in mind….Hero’s Rock has created the “Patriotic Pony” pledging this nations love and support to our wounded warriors and their families."

Scott and Trish Snyder, from Mantua, Ohio, built their first rocking horse back in 2009 and presented it to a child. His reaction was so overwhelming, it created purpose for them, and two years later, Hero's Rock was born. Knowing that the Fisher House was a place where military children often stayed while their parent was healing at the VA Hospital, their goal is to place a Patriotic Pony in every Fisher House across the country. To date, they have traveled almost 8,000 miles, and delivered 22 Patriotic Ponies.
On hand for the delivery ceremony were Michael's mom Evelyn and sister Jeanie. It was an emotional event for them, and they told the attendees a little bit about their family's hero.
"I don’t know what the plans were for Michael, but I can tell you all this. He avoided death twice in Afghanistan and the third time, it took him from us. But he is in a better place, and we know we are going to see him someday" - Jeanie rutherford
STX Fisher House Program Manager Erik Zielinski and Scott Snyder bring the Patriotic Pony inside.
Hero's Rock Co-Founder, Trish Snyder, reads an excerpt from the Patriotic Pony book that they now produce. Each pony is accompanied by two books, one given to the family, and the other going to the Fisher House. It highlights each honorees life and sacrifice to the country.
Scott Snyder told the crowd on hand that many, many people came together to make this project happen. His message was clear.
"The horses are community projects, constructed and painted by many volunteers, from every walk of life. it shows the people at the Fisher Houses that there are people across the country that care about them and have their backs" scott snyder
Each family is invited to sign and personalize the Patriotic Pony with well wishes or remembrances of their hero.

Scott Snyder added that he met eager volunteers from across the country, including students, marching bands, private companies, and even a Gold Star family, who spent many Saturday's in the Snyder's shop helping construct all 20 ponies. Fighting back emotion, Scott said the ponies collectively represent, "the greatest military on the face of the planet."

In the end, the goal is for the ponies to be ridden by the children of wounded warriors.

The South Texas VA Fisher House would like to thank Hero's Rock for the Patriotic Pony, and for supporting our Veterans.

Credits:

VA photos by Lupe Hernandez and Steve Goetsch

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