“We’ve had a long medical journey:” Fisher House Wisconsin helps Fond du Lac family in their time of need

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MILWAUKEE — Veterans Day comes every year, but Veterans Day 2016 will be the first time veterans' families will have a free place to stay while their loved ones get treatment at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center -- Fisher House Wisconsin.

Fisher House Wisconsin has already helped several families since opening its doors including the Wild family from Fond du Lac.

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John and Rachel Wild

Rachel and John Wild are high school sweethearts. They got engaged in 2003. In 2005, the couple decided it was time to get married before John left to go overseas.

"If I didn't do it before he went, I was worried something bad would happen," Rachel Wild said.

"We got married right before I left for Iraq," John Wild said.

One month after exchanging vows, John left for a seven-month tour of duty as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Corporal John Wild served as a combat engineer in the United States Marine Corps for four years.

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John Wild served as a Combat Engineer in the United States Marine Corps.

"To me, it was, probably one of the highlights of my life was serving the country," John said.

Once John returned home, the couple decided to put down roots where they both grew up.

"Home is always nice. Let's go back home," John said about the decision to live in Wisconsin.

In May of 2012, their family of two became a family of three.

"We got our wonderful son Owen," Rachel said.

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Owen Wild was born in May of 2012 with Spina Bifida.

"He's your typical kid -- trying to get into everything and just happy. You know, he doesn't care that he can't walk or crawl," John said.

Owen has Spina Bifida — a birth defect where the spinal cord doesn't develop properly. This led to a unique set of challenges for the Wilds.

"We've had a long medical journey with him," Rachel said.

But when it comes to long medical journeys, Owen's was just the beginning. His dad's journey started on June 12, 2016.

Rachel and Owen were out of town for a relative's birthday.

John decided to go boating with his friends. He dove into the lake and hit his head.

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Rachel and Owen Wild visit John Wild after he was injured diving into a lake.

"I went to swim and suddenly I couldn't move anything," John recalled about that day.

Rachel got a call from a friend explaining what happened.

"You need to go to the hospital to see John," Rachel recalled her friend telling her.

John was paralyzed from the neck down after bruising his spinal cord.

"It was like a bad dream I couldn't wake up from," Rachel said.

In the days that followed, Rachel and Owen were by John's side. John started to regain some movement, but had a long road of rehabilitation ahead.

The couple needed to decide where the rehab treatment would take place. It wasn't an easy decision for the Wilds, but Rachel toured the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA and knew it's where she wanted John to get treatment.

The problem was that they lived over an hour away, meaning Rachel and Owen wouldn't be near John during his recovery.

Luckily, the Milwaukee VA had a solution to keep John's wife and son nearby for free.

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Owen Wild spending time at Fisher House Wisconsin.

"The social worker that we actually met with there told us about the Fisher House," Rachel said.

Fisher House Wisconsin offers free lodging for veterans' families while loved ones get treatment at the Milwaukee VA.

Rachel and Owen were able to get a room for the duration of John's treatment.

"We were actually able to keep our room the whole time that we were here, which was tremendous," Rachel said.

It meant Owen was there to teach his dad important lessons like how to use a wheelchair. It meant that Rachel and Owen were there to help John get back on his feet. It meant that John had the security of knowing his family was nearby when he needed them.

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Owen Wild teaches his dad, John Wild, how to use a wheelchair.

"Knowing that I could call her up and be like, 'Hey, I know you guys just left, but you know, I really want you to come back just for a little bit,'" John said.

Above all else, Fisher House kept the Wilds together when they needed each other most and gave Rachel and Owen a place to call home in Milwaukee.

"To me, I see no reason to not stay here," John Wild said about Fisher House.

"The Fisher House was tremendous for our family," Rachel Wild said.

John is still recovering from his injury, but when he met with FOX6 he was standing and walking on his own. If you'd like to learn more about the Wilds' journey and donate to the family, there's a YouCaring page set up.