Purple Heart Recipient Honored as Patriot of the Game

Purple Heart Recipient Honored as Patriot of the Game

After reading in a local newspaper last year about an Air Force officer’s dedication to OU football and how he traded his Purple Heart Coin for an OU football signed by coach Lincoln Riley, a few generous Sooner fans came together and made it possible for retired Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Fisher to attend his very first University of Oklahoma football game last season.

Little did Fisher know, he’d return to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium a year later as the OU Extended Campus Patriot of the Game, receiving another signed football along with a standing ovation from more than 85,000 spectators.

Fisher was honored as Patriot of the Game during the OU-West Virginia game Oct. 19, almost eight years to the date after suffering injuries that earned him a Purple Heart. 

Fisher’s love for Oklahoma football began long before last year’s exchange. As a young child growing up in Iowa, Fisher began watching OU football games on television.

“I remember seeing the horses and watching the crowd, watching them play Texas,” he said. “I saw someone make a touchdown, I don’t remember who it was, but I’ve been an Oklahoma fan ever since then.”

“I was so honored and excited at the same time,” Fisher said. “It was a well put on presentation, and I know it truly came from the heart. Everyone was just wonderful, and it spoke highly of the entire OU nation."

 - Lt. Col. Steven Fisher

When Fisher had the opportunity to get a master’s degree from OU while assigned to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, he jumped at the opportunity and completed a master’s degree in Human Relations.

“I took classes in 2004-2005, then immediately I went to Guam,” he said. “I had visited the campus, but I never was able to attend a football game.”

Fisher began his military career in 1986 as a private in the United States Army, earning an associate degree in nursing and bachelor’s degrees in arts and nursing. 

While continuing to serve in the Army, he was selected as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force and served as a captain at the Offutt Air Force Base Emergency Department. Soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks Fisher was deployed to a classified location.

Fisher earned his master’s degree from OU before being assigned to Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. During that time, he assisted in the Indonesia Tsunami relief efforts and was a first responder for the USS San Francisco nuclear submarine mishap. Fisher later completed doctorate degrees in Healthcare Administration and Infectious Diseases before being promoted to Major.

On Oct. 17, 2011, while serving as the chief nurse assigned to Camp Holland, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, a rocket struck within 30 feet of Fisher. He sustained injuries to his back and face, including embedded shrapnel in his mouth. Though he was in excruciating pain, he assessed his injuries and proceeded to the medical group area of operations where he was advised to accept medical air transportation to a larger base in Kandahar for further assessment and treatment.

Instead, Fisher remained in place to fulfill his duties as the officer in charge of the trauma bay and ICU ward. After treating his own wounds, he continued to perform his duties for another two months until his replacement arrived, ensuring there would be no significant hardship to his team through the completion of the deployment.

It wasn’t until his return from deployment that he sought treatment for his injuries. Since that time, he has suffered chronic back pain and received 20 dental procedures to correct shrapnel damage to his teeth and mouth.

In 2015, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel while assigned to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, the rank at which he was medically retired. In August 2016, he was presented a Purple Heart for his actions on Oct. 17, 2011. The medal is one of 28 ribbons and 17 medals awarded to him during his military career.

Fisher was nominated for Patriot of the Game by his good friend and OU season ticket holder Jackie Donaldson, whom he met during last year’s visit to Norman. The Donaldsons and the Fishers became instant friends and continued to stay in touch over the past year.

“My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Steve and his wife, Colleen, in November 2018 when they attended their first OU football game,” Donaldson said in an email nominating Fisher for the honor. “I can say he is an unselfish, humble, giving man.”

Fisher, who will undergo further surgery in December, said the Patriot of the Game was one of the most memorable moments he’s ever experienced, and it was an honor to enjoy it with family and friends.

“I was so honored and excited at the same time,” Fisher said. “It was a well put on presentation, and I know it truly came from the heart. Everyone was just wonderful, and it spoke highly of the entire OU nation.

“The fans getting up and cheering, it was very special,” he added. “It was such a neat experience, not just for me but for my family, especially my 11-year-old granddaughter. It meant so much to me.”

OU Extended Campus has a long history of meeting the educational needs of military-affiliated students by providing onsite and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs for service members, veterans and their dependents. OU Extended Campus began sponsoring Patriot of the Game during the 2019 football season to further its commitment to this mission. 

To nominate your military hero for Patriot of the Game, visit the Patriot of the Game website, patriot.pacs.ou.edu.

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.