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A Terminally Ill Veteran Had One Dying Request — And Thousands Of People Responded
A heartfelt message from a military wife and caregiver has quickly become an inspiring example of how social media can truly serve as an incredible mechanism for real good.
Lee Hernandez, 47, served in the Army for more than 18 years. He suffers from a debilitating condition that was deemed terminal after three brain surgeries failed to identify the cause. With Lee now in hospice care at home in New Braunfels, Texas, Hernandez’s wife Ernestine contacted the advocacy groups Caregivers of Wounded Warriors and the Arizona Veterans Forum with a request for phone calls and texts, along with Lee’s phone number.
It was simple but tragic request: Her husband’s dying wish is to hear from you.
The July 11 Facebook post on the Arizona Veterans Forum page immediately went viral and an outpouring of support flooded in. In a matter of days, Lee received more than 100,000 texts and numerous calls from strangers who shared their own stories, kind words, gratitude for Lee’s service, and notes of encouragement.
Eventually, the high volume of messages became overwhelming. To lighten the load, family friend Susan Frawley started the Facebook page Team Lee!!! American Hero Support Group, as a way for supporters, veterans, and service members to reach out to the couple.
Though the strokes left Lee blind, he brightens up when Ernestine reads the messages to him.
“We started the Team Lee Support page so people could leave messages for Lee, because it’s overwhelming, it’s good, but there needed to be a place for people to reach Lee, which could handle the high volume of messages,” Frawley, who is also a military caregiver for her husband, a Marine veteran, told Task & Purpose.
“The response has been overwhelming and positive and there have been people on there sharing their own stories with Lee,” she added. “Lee looks stronger, and it has cheered them up. They don’t feel so alone. They know that there’s people out there who have their backs.”
Lee, has been battling with health issues for years, but hit “rock bottom” over a year ago, Ernestine told Arizona Central, adding that her husband’s “strong will keeps him going.”
According to a Facebook post by Frawley on the Team Lee!!! American Hero Support Group, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which launched the Hidden Heroes campaign to support military caregivers like Ernestine, is taking over media queries for the Hernandez family.
“The Hernandez’s story captures something beautiful that is happening every day within this community,” the foundation told Task & Purpose.“No matter where they live or what their background may be, these spouses, mothers, dads, siblings, and other loved ones are united by the strongest of bonds, their care for wounded warriors at home.”
In addition to the Facebook page, Frawley created a GoFundMe campaign on July 16 to raise money for Lee and Ernestine to travel and enjoy the time he has left, and the campaign has nearly reached its $3,000 goal.
“We don't like saying that Lee's time is short, but the doctors have said that there is nothing else they can do for Lee and he is home on hospice,” reads the message on the page. “Our goal is to fill this season of his life with all the joy that we can.”
‘We constantly have them on our minds’ — A little-known agency searches all over for the remains of MIA service members
The 80-minute ride each day to the site in Lang Son Province, Vietnam, through mostly unspoiled forestland and fields, reminded Air Force Master Sgt. Aliah Reyes a little of her hometown back in Maine.
The Eliot native recently returned from a 45-day mission to the Southeast Asian country, where she was part of a team conducting a search for a Vietnam War service member who went missing more than 45 years ago and is presumed dead.
Reyes, 38, enlisted in the Air Force out of high school and has spent more than half her life in military service. But she had never been a part of anything like this.
A U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicle burst into flames on the side of a Polish roadway on Saturday, the Army confirmed on Monday.
A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."