It’s been a whirlwind trip for a terminally ill Vietnam War veteran visiting Hawaii.
Joseph Hooker, 63, has been diagnosed with heart disease and cancer. His prognosis is less than two months.
On Wednesday, the Essex, Md. resident’s longtime dream of touring Pearl Harbor came true.
Hooker served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1968-1972, voluntarily enlisting at age 17 because “that was where my heart led me.”
During his years of service, he was stationed in Paris Island, Europe and Vietnam.
As he returned home in 1972, his ship stopped at Pearl Harbor for just 20 minutes. He saw the Pacific Fleet from a distance and promised himself he would return.
Forty-three years later, that dream was fulfilled thanks to the Dream Foundation’s new subprogram, Dreams for Veterans.
Its mission is to give back to terminally ill veterans and their families through the fulfillment of a final dream.
“My dream was to see Pearl Harbor and until now, I did my purpose. I can go home now and rest in peace,” Hooker said.
Then on Thursday evening, Hooker received another honor: a “We Honor Veterans” pin and certificate from Islands Hospice.
He was honored during a ceremony at Kapiolani Park.
“We hope he takes it home feeling acknowledged for his service in the military,” said Jeff Tomasa of Islands Hospice.
Hooker is scheduled to return home to Maryland Friday.
In addition to the USS Missouri tour, the Dream Foundation provided the airfare from Maryland to Hawaii, as well as four nights in Hawaii, accommodations on either end due to layovers, and financial assistance for meals and incidentals.
“Truly, it is an honor for us to serve those who have so bravely served our country. Mr. Hooker’s final wish is a testament to his patriotism and sense of duty. We are proud to share in this momentous occasion,” said executive director Kisa Heyer.