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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.”
The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would allow service members to seek compensation when military doctors make mistakes that harm them, but they would still be unable to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government.
On Monday night, Congress announced that it had finalized the NDAA, which must be passed by the House and Senate before going to President Donald Trump. If the president signs the NDAA into law, it would mark the first time in nearly seven decades that U.S. military personnel have had legal recourse to seek payment from the military in cases of medical malpractice.
A major serving at U.S. Army Cyber Command has been charged with distributing child pornography, according to the Justice Department.
Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove, who is based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, has been remanded to the U.S. Marshals service, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia says.
The new acting secretary of the Navy said recently that he is open to designing a fleet that is larger than the current 355-ship plan, one that relies significantly on unmanned systems rather than solely on traditional gray hulls.
Pardoned soldiers Clint Lorance and Mathew Golsteyn were special guests at a recent Trump fundraiser
President Donald Trump, speaking during a closed-door speech to Republican Party of Florida donors at the state party's annual Statesman's Dinner, was in "rare form" Saturday night.
The dinner, which raised $3.5 million for the state party, was met with unusual secrecy. The 1,000 attendees were required to check their cell phones into individual locked cases before they entered the unmarked ballroom at the south end of the resort. Reporters were not allowed to attend.
But the secrecy was key to Trump's performance, which attendees called "hilarious."
Riding the high of the successful event turnout — and without the pressure of press or cell phones — Trump transformed into a "total comedian," according to six people who attended the event and spoke afterward to the Miami Herald.
He also pulled an unusual move, bringing on stage Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who Trump pardoned last month for cases involving war crimes. Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence for ordering his soldiers shoot at unarmed men in Afghanistan, and Golsteyn was to stand trial for the 2010 extrajudicial killing of a suspected bomb maker.
Retired Col. Charles McGee stepped out of the small commercial jet and flashed a smile.
Then a thumbs-up.
McGee had returned on a round-trip flight Friday morning from Dover Air Force Base, where he served as co-pilot on one of two flights done especially for his birthday.
By the way he disembarked from the plane, it was hard to tell that McGee, a Tuskegee Airman, was turning 100.