Former fire cadet welcomed home from hospital

Almost two months after near-fatal crash, he gets ride in familiar fire engine

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

Published:

 

You can help

Fundraiser for Jack Fletcher's medical expenses

• When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday.

• Where: Mill Creek Pub, 1710 S.W. Ninth Ave., Suite 101, Battle Ground (Phone: 360-723-5223).

Follow Jack Fletcher's progress at: <a href="http://www.facebook.com/prayingforjackfletcher">www.facebook.com/prayingforjackfletcher</a>

You can help

Fundraiser for Jack Fletcher’s medical expenses

When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Mill Creek Pub, 1710 S.W. Ninth Ave., Suite 101, Battle Ground (Phone: 360-723-5223).

Follow Jack Fletcher’s progress at: www.facebook.com/prayingforjackfletcher

BATTLE GROUND — When his family brought him back home Saturday from a long hospital stay, Jack Fletcher had a slight detour. He rode the last few miles in a fire engine.

It was just one of several surprises awaiting the Fletchers as they finally brought their son home, almost two months after a near-fatal auto accident.

There were several banners — “Welcome home Jack” and “We love you” — along the fence at Prairie High School, facing Northeast 117th Avenue.

There was a huge sign welcoming him back to his neighborhood. And that’s where dozens of friends, neighbors, rugby teammates and members of the fire cadet program greeted him with hugs and handshakes.

And, of course, there was Clark County Fire & Rescue’s cadet engine. For two years, the cadet engine was something of his rolling red classroom when Fletcher was a student in the agency’s fire cadet program. Fletcher was the program’s cadet chief last year.

Valree Irwin, this year’s cadet chief, was among those gathered at the cadet engine, waiting for the Fletchers’ car to pull into the shopping center parking lot with their former classmate.

“I know Jack, and I know his leadership,” she said. “He was great. It’s big shoes to fill.”

Clark County Fire & Rescue firefighter Aaron Huntington coordinates the fire cadet program. He said the fire service is “a family, and really together like nothing else I’ve seen.”

Huntington said Saturday’s gesture didn’t cost the agency anything. He paid for the fuel for the fire engine so his former student could finish the ride home in style; all the agency employees who turned out were on their own time, Huntington said.

Jack Fletcher seemed primed for a career launch in Central Oregon, where he was going to college and working with the Crook County Fire Department. Fletcher was driving home on July 30 when a pickup crossed the center line on Highway 26 near Brightwood, Ore., crashing head-on into his Subaru wagon. The extensive list of injuries included traumatic brain injury.

Kelly Fletcher said Saturday that her son has been checked out of the hospital and he’ll be undergoing therapy as an outpatient. They’re still waiting to hear where Jack’s therapy program will be based, as well as the timetable, she said.

Saturday’s homecoming was organized by Colleen Greenen. She and Kelly have been friends since they were cheerleaders decades ago at Fort Vancouver High School.

Eight years ago, Colleen’s son, Ryan Greenen, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a sledding accident. The Greenens know what the Fletchers will be facing in the months and years to come, and Saturday’s homecoming will help that transition.

“It’s very important for Jack, primarily, and the family to document and celebrate all the steps in the recovery process,” Greenen said.

With short-term memory problems, Jack will benefit from all the photos and videos he can see. He will have several group photos to remind him of his friends. Fletcher and this year’s fire cadets posed for a “team” photo in front of the fire engine.

A huge welcome-home sign by Brad Macom — he and Fletcher have known each other since their Cub Scout days — was the backdrop for a neighborhood photo.

They all will help Jack understand where he was after the accident and what happens all the way through the recovery process.

“He may not remember that he has progressed,” Greenen said. “It’s important he doesn’t become too sad about his loss, that he sees he has progressed and continually is progressing. This will help him feel he is accomplishing something, and is working toward a new goal.”