Dreams for Veterans: Honoring the final dreams of those who have served

Eighty-two-year-old Arkansas resident Gerald was diagnosed with end-stage coronary artery disease. He came to us with a simple yet powerful dream request: to reconnect with aspects of his former military service by revisiting the USS Laffey at Patriot’s Point, South Carolina. Gerald had served on the USS Laffey from 1950-1954 as a sailor in the U.S. Navy, working as a machinist mate in the engine room. He traveled the world on that ship and saw three tours in Korea during the war. His final dream was to walk the decks one last time, 60 years after the culmination of his service.

“I just wanted to come back and see actually what happened to me in my early 20s,” Gerald said. “I think the bottom line was the four years changed me. I was a different person when I left.”

Gerald’s Navy experiences included a 28-day stretch when, from off the Korean coast, he remembers the Laffey pouring shells at targets on the mainland. He described how the ship would roll from side to side when the guns were fired and how he would go out with a couple of other sailors in small wooden boats to clear mines. It had to be done at night, he recalls, with no lights and no weapons except for knives. He said the metal from the guns might have exploded the floating mines.

We arranged for Gerald and his daughter’s reunion aboard the USS Laffey, including a special tour, catered luncheon, and the opportunity to share stories with members of the press and in an oral history interview. Father and daughter then spent the weekend touring Patriot’s Point, where Gerald became an instant local celebrity. Members of the community stopped him frequently as they recognized him and wanted to thank him for his service. We are honored to help support veterans like Gerald by giving them the opportunity to share their stories and receive acknowledgement for their military service.

The Chance to Dream Again

Ninety-four-year-old New Jersey resident Ethel met her husband Carl when she was serving as a U.S. Army nurse during World War II. While struggling with the effects of terminal lymphoma, the couple was forced to put their house on the market in order to meet the financial obligations associated with her care and treatment. We fulfilled Ethel’s dream for her and Carl to attend the monthly pancake breakfast at their local American Legion post, then take a drive to visit their old home and see the military cemetery where they will one day be buried.

When time has been cut short due to terminal illness, a dream allows people like Ethel to reconnect with meaningful aspects of their past and honor a life full of love, service and community. For more of Ethel’s dream and to see pictures, follow this link.

If You Served, You Can Dream

Founded in 1994, Dream Foundation is the only national dream-granting organization for adults and their families battling life-threatening illness. We touch lives, meet needs, reunite families and provide joy, peace and comfort at the end of life’s journey through the fulfillment of a final dream. Over the course of its 20-year history, we have served more than 20,000 final dreams in communities large and small throughout all 50 states, providing a vital resource for adults with life threatening illness, many of which – like Gerald and Ethel – have been U.S. military veterans.

This year marks another milestone for Dream Foundation with the official launch of its Dreams For Veterans sub-program. Having learned the importance of acknowledging Veterans, honoring their service and sharing their personal stories, Dreams for Veterans effectively tailors the dream experience for Veterans and their families, providing the invaluable opportunity to honor a Veteran’s service while engaging, honoring and appreciating their families and communities.

The public launch of Dreams For Veterans will take place Sept. 17 at The Reserve Officers Association of The United States in Washington, D.C. The event will be attended by some of our recent Veteran dream recipients and their families, who will be presented Dreams For Veterans ‘Challenge Coins’ by their members of Congress. Members of other Veterans Service Organizations will participate in a panel discussion on palliative care For Veterans.

Dreams for Veterans recipients are U.S. military Veterans 18 years or older with a life expectancy of 12 months or less, and who lack the means to manifest his or her dream unassisted. Final dreams range from basic needs items such as a mobility scooter, lift chair, working appliance or laptop, to bedside reunions, final vacations with family, meeting a personal hero, or reconnecting with aspects of former military service.

Dream Foundation receives no public funding and has never turned down a qualified dream request. Please consider sharing Dreams for Veterans with Veterans in need, which will enable Dream Foundation to fulfill their final wishes. In addition to referring applicants, you can learn more about how you can participate in honoring and acknowledging a Veteran dream recipient or how you can help spread the word in your community by visiting www.dreamfoundation.org/veterans or calling (888) 4DREAMS/(888) 437-3267.

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