Veteran’s dream of Yosemite fulfilled Letter written because ‘Obama was our last chance’
A World War II veteran whose dream vacation was brought to life by a Santa Barbara nonprofit is urging other veterans to take advantage of the end-of-life program.
Former Petty Officer 3rd Class Raymond West, 90, and his wife, Jean, were provided a trip to Yosemite National Park by the Dream Foundation in May.
The Dream Foundation fulfills dreams for terminally ill adults with a life expectancy of 12 months or less. Mr. West was one of the inaugural members of the foundation’s Dreams for Veterans Program.
Kisa Heyer, executive director of the Dream Foundation, said the organization has provided dreams for more than 700 veterans from World War II through the post-9/11 conflicts. The foundation’s new veterans program has provided 115 dreams so far.
“All I can say is every veteran should be able to take advantage of the opportunity I had through the Dream Foundation,” said Mr. West after a Veterans Day event at The Samarkand retirement community in Santa Barbara.
“It’s a connection that most veterans may not know about.”
“I didn’t like the word hospice, but I realized there was so much available to us. You should accept and embrace what is offered to you because it enriches your life,” she said, adding that her husband is doing well after a nearly a year of hospice care.
Mr. West joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 17 and served for three years at an ammunition depot in Nevada.
“I was in the Navy, but they shipped me to the desert,” he laughed, explaining that he would package ammunition for shipment to ports in San Francisco and Oakland. From there the artillery rounds and other ammunition would be sent to battlefronts all over the world.
After leaving the Navy, Mr. West became a movie audio mixer in Hollywood. The Detroit native won an Oscar for his audio work on the movie “Star Wars” in 1979.
Mr. and Mrs. West were married in 1950 and moved to Oakhurst after Mr. West’s retirement from the movie industry.
“We went to Yosemite on our honeymoon and we have been to there every year at one time or another for the rest of our married life,” said Ms. West.
The couple have missed the annual trip only once in their 65-year marriage.
When the Dream Foundation asked him what he wanted to do for his dream, the answer was obvious, Mr. West said.
“My original dream was that I visit Yosemite National Park one last time. It was just wonderful wish that came true for me, to be back in the park where we had spent a lot of time.”
Mrs. West said she thought it was a death sentence when her husband was admitted into hospice care in December following a diagnosis of chronic lymphetic lukemia, but quickly discovered the Dream Foundation and other programs that catered to those with end-of-life needs.
PAUL GONZALEZ, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER