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.