On this Veterans Day, I am excited to tell you about a newly launched Silver Lining program to celebrate and honor our veterans.
As many of you know, I have been involved with the Santa Barbara-based, nationally-serving Dream Foundation for-what seems like-ever. As a hospice nurse, the organization is incredibly near and dear to my heart – because it provides people and their families with wishes at the end of their lives. Seriously amazing. And wonderful. It is the ONLY national dream-granting organization for adults.
Dream recipients are those individuals who have been given a year or less life expectancy. Dreams range from basic needs items, like a working stove, to bedside reunions and meaningful experiences with children and loved ones.
Dreams for Veterans is a new program of Dream Foundation. Its mission is to serve terminally ill veterans and their families through the fulfillment of a final dream. Having learned the importance of acknowledging veterans, honoring their service and sharing their personal stories, Dream Foundation created Dreams for Veterans in 2014 to effectively tailor the dream experience to veterans and their families. To date, the program has served the dreams of more than 100 terminally ill adults; that number is projected to expand to more than 600 over the next few years.
Below are some goose bump and tear-inducing stories. I hope that they inspire you today.
• James (Arizona) —James passed away June 24, 2015 from terminal adenocarcinoma, one day before he realized his dream of visiting Washington D.C. with his wife and son. He was 55 years old. James served honorably in the U.S. Navy from 1977 – 1981 before retiring as a Disbursing Clerk Second Class. Having served during peacetime, he shared with Dreams for Veterans that his most meaningful memory was pulling out of port and seeing the land disappear. “I always got a charge over that,” he had said. “When I was on watch, I would look out and realize that I was protecting family and loved ones back home.” Senator McCain’s office helped plan a memorable trip for James and his wife and son, including tours of the White House and U.S. Capitol, and visits to historic landmarks around the city—a trip he had to cancel at the last minute because he became unable to travel. As James’ wife Sheri expressed after he died, “My husband was overwhelmed by the Foundation granting him his dream. Even though he didn’t get to go on the trip, it helped to restore his faith in the goodness of people.” James’ wife attended the event on his behalf.
• Ray (California) —Ray is an 89-year-old leukemia and heart disease patient, and a U.S. Navy veteran. He served from 1944 -1946 and his title was Seaman 3rd Class, Ships Mate. He was stationed at Sampson, N.Y., and later mostly loaded ammunition in the Utah and Nevada deserts. Ray’s dream, to enjoy a trip to the Yosemite Valley with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, occurred in May 2015. Dreams for Veterans sent the family to Yosemite, where they stayed in the Ahwahnee Hotel, enjoyed stunning views of the valley and made perhaps their last set of memories together there in the park.
• Hallock (Connecticut) —Hallock is a U.S. Army veteran. His dream was to make memories with his wife and three young children (8, 6 and 4) by taking them to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Yocher’s dream occurred in January 2014. His family of five visited both SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando in addition to Walt Disney World. Hallock said he felt “such peace and joy to see my kids look so happy and excited and they explored the parks.” At the time of his dream, Hallock’s physician attested that he had a life expectancy of nine months due to his terminal Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. However, he has exceeded that prognosis and was thrilled to share his story. Hallock is a proud veteran, who spent six years in the Army, serving one tour in Iraq. After that time he transferred to the Air Force, where he toured Iraq again. He has received honorable discharges from both branches of service.
• Randy (Ohio) —Randy passed away January 24, 2015 from cancer. His dream, to attend a Pittsburgh Steelers game, occurred on October 21, 2014. Randy was a member of the U.S. Navy from 1975 – 1995, serving on submarines. Randy was an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Over the years he had attended a few home games, but with finances strained as a result of his illness, he had not been able to see a game live for quite some time. Last fall, Randy appealed to Dreams for Veterans for help getting to Heinz Field and watching his favorite team from the sidelines. Randy and his family went to a game, after which he wrote to Dreams for Veterans saying, “It was absolutely fabulous. It meant so much to us. The weather was beautiful; everything was perfect. We made amazing memories.” Randy’s family attended the event on his behalf.