Terminally Ill Veterans Get Chance for Final Wish

By Leo Shane III

After honeymooning in California’s Yosemite National Park in 1950, Navy veteran Ray West and his wife, Jean, returned there each of the next 48 years to celebrate their anniversary.

Then his health began to fail, and his family had to break the anniversary tradition. When the 89-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia and heart disease in late 2014, his only wish was one more trip with his family to the park that had become “our home away from home.”

He was granted that wish in May, thanks to help from the Dream Foundation’s new veterans program, launched just before West’s diagnosis. The group picked up lodging costs for the journey and helped ease travel issues related to his illnesses.

“It wouldn’t have been possible for us to do that without them,” an emotional West said at a foundation event in Washington, D.C., last week. “My dream really was fulfilled.”

The foundation, created 20 years ago, began discussing a veterans-specific program in recent years as staff and volunteers saw an increasing number of aging former service members reaching out to their organization for help. (Read more)

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Veterans Journal: Dream Foundation Grants Wishes for Terminally Ill Vets

Screen shot 2015-09-23 at 10.00.07 AMDreams for Veterans, a program of the Dream Foundation started in 2014, gives back to terminally ill veterans and their families through the fulfillment of a final dream. Dream recipients are U.S. military veterans 18 and over with a life expectancy of 12 months or less.

The only national dream-granting organization for adults, Dream Foundation enhances the quality of life for individuals and their families battling life-threatening illness. Dreams range from basic needs, such as a working stove, to bedside reunions and meaningful experiences with children and loved ones.

Founded in 1994, Dream Foundation grants more than 2,500 final wishes each year and relies on a network of volunteers, sponsors and individual donors. CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines and entrepreneur and philanthropist John Paul DeJoria are founding sponsors of this program. For more information, visit dreamfoundation.org/veterans. (Read more)

Chandler Family Fulfills a Loved One’s Last Wish with Washington Trip

By Elizabeth Blackburn

WASHINGTON – James Malone and his stepmom, Sheri, looked like any other first-time tourists in Washington last week as they went from monument to monument, posing and taking photos.

But the Malones were doing more than making memories – they were also fulfilling a loved one’s last wish.

The Chandler family was in Washington with Dreams for Veterans, an organization under the Dream Foundation that grants wishes to terminally ill veterans like Jim Malone, the late father and husband to James and Sheri.

A Navy veteran who was in active duty from 1977 to 1981, and in the Navy Reserve from 1982 to 1987, Jim Malone was diagnosed in September 2013 with stage-four esophageal cancer. His doctor and social worker at the time suggested that he fill out an application to Dreams for Veterans.

Jim’s dream was to take his family to Washington, D.C.

“He really just wanted to share his love of the country and why it was always so important to him,” Sheri said of the trip. She said her husband’s love of country “is personified in D.C, and that is why D.C. was so special to him.”

Jim didn’t think his wish would be considered, but told Sheri that if she wanted to “waste her time” she was welcome to fill out the application. She did, and Dreams for Veterans granted Jim’s wish in June 2015.

Sheri said Jim felt undeserving, because he had never served in combat, but being granted his wish left him feeling overwhelmed and grateful.

James said the wish-granting party at a Carl’s Jr. – which partners with Dreams for Veterans on the program – allowed him to “see my hero smile one last time.” Jim Malone died later that month, on the morning the family was scheduled to travel to Washington.

Four months later James and Sheri were invited to a Washington event at which other families and veterans would be talking about their wishes. The Malones decided to go.

At the Capitol Hill event Thursday, James Malone talked about his dad as his “hero.” He had the crowd laughing with his father’s story about trying to re-enlist after 9/11, when Jim Malone said “they told me when they need a 40-year-old fat pool guy, they’ll call me.”

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Mesa, gave the family a flag that flew over the Capitol in Jim Malone’s honor.

“This flag was flown for the Malone family in honor of James Malone to honor the life of U.S. Navy veteran James Malone. Your deep love of the country will never be forgotten,” Salmon said as he presented the flag. “Thank you for your patriotism, selflessness and brave service to your country.”

Sheri said that in addition to the trip, Jim’s other wish was to see his son graduate from high school.

He was there to see James graduate from Chandler High School this spring and to learn James had received a full scholarship to attend Arizona State University, where he is now in his first semester studying business.

The trip to Washington included a meeting with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and a tour of the Capitol in addition to stops at monuments along the National Mall.

“It’s felt like Jim’s been with us today,” Sheri said. “It was a last gift from him.”

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Dreams for Veterans!

Screen shot 2015-09-23 at 10.49.02 AMYesterday morning we headed to the Reserve Officers Association on Capitol Hill for the public launch of Dreams for Veterans.

Dreams for Veterans serves those who have served by giving back to terminally ill veterans and their families through the fulfillment of a final dream. We snapped the Kellogg Organization’s Terry Wall with Veterans History Project’s Karen Lloyd and Elizabeth Slaught, a supporter for 20 years and wife of the board president. The Veterans History Project is a unique program with the Library of Congress to collect veterans’ stories from all over the country.

Guests included those who have received dreams from the Dreams for Veterans program and their families. Here, Dream Foundation Executive Director Kisa Heyer with Schmidt family members Will, Shawna, Wendy and Cary. Guests enjoyed a continental breakfast before the program.

Dreams for Veterans has served the dreams of more than 600 terminally ill adults, with hopes to expand its outreach in the coming years. Here, Eric Taylor of Sen. John McCain’s office joins Dreamer family James and Sheri Malone from Phoenix, with Dreams for Veterans Advisory Committee member Kelsey Martin. (Read more)

Dreams for Veterans: Fulfilling Dreams One Veteran at a Time

Today, I had the honor of attending and reading a letter from the First Lady during the public launch of Dreams For Veterans. This organization fulfills dreams for U.S. military veterans with a life expectancy of 12 months or less. The program honors their lives, meets their needs, and reunites their families to bring closure to their end-of-life journey. Many dreams fulfilled through the Dreams for Veterans program include tailored elements intended to recognize these individuals and their service. For veteran dream recipients, dreams come in many shapes and sizes, from receiving daily comfort items to helping facilitate family reunions.

It was such an experience to meet with veterans who attended the launch today, many of whom have had dreams fulfilled by Dreams for Veterans. For me, the story of veterans, Ethel, 94 and her husband Carl, 92, really hit home for me. The couple met while Ethel was serving as a nurse during World War II. Recently, Ethel’s terminal lymphoma had created a financial and emotional burden; but, she and Carl tried to remain active. Ethel’s dream was to attend the monthly pancake breakfast at the local American Legion post with Carl. They received a hero’s welcome that special morning, and spent valuable time together connecting with other veterans.

Ethel’s story is just one more than 100 dreams fulfilled by Dreams for Veterans, the first national program specifically serving and honoring veterans – from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan – at the end of life by fulfilling their final dream. In addition to giving dream recipients and their families the opportunity to make the most of the time they have left, a final dream also improves their end of life care by addressing the emotional and psychological needs of terminally ill veterans and those of their loved ones and caretakers.

Many veteran Dreamers are eager to reconcile memories and acknowledge their former service. They come to Dreams for Veterans with service-centric dreams ranging from taking historical tours of battleships or enjoying camaraderie and a meal at the American Legion to visiting our nation’s capital, memorials or having their stories of military service shared and preserved with their families. No matter the dream, at the heart of each one is its ability to ignite hope, anticipation and joy in the lives of those who need it most. Individuals and families, hospice partners, hospitals, doctors, social workers and veterans’ organizations share the program with veterans. By providing a resource to an extended community, a dream has the ability to not just serve the recipient, but all those involved in the experience.

We salute Dreams for Veterans as they publicly launch this program on September 17 in Washington, D.C., and continue to fulfill the dreams of those who so bravely and selflessly served our country.

Colonel Nicole Malachowski, USAF, is the Executive Director of Joining Forces.


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