LARNED – Larned’s Gary Hiestand is struggling through tough times, but it was the perfect time to celebrate his military service at American Legion Post 106.
Thanks to the Dream Foundation, Gentiva Hospice and his daughters’ work, Hiestand’s service in the U.S. Navy from 1957-1960 in San Diego and Honolulu was celebrated Friday at the Larned American Legion Post 106.
“This brings tears to my eyes,” said Hiestand, who is assisted by Hospice care through Gentiva Hospice of Hutchinson. “I thank everybody here.”
Hiestand is a charter member of American Legion Post 106.
The Dream Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif. donated a specialized hearing device. Ariel Newcomb said Gentiva applied for Dream Foundation assistance more than six months ago.
“At home, when the kids are visiting, I can hear really good with it. The hearing aid really helps,” Hiestand said.
The Dream Foundation created Dreams for Veterans in 2014 to tailor the dream experience for veterans and their families. Dream recipients who served from World War II to those who currently serve on active duty, or in the reserves are eligible for assistance. Dreams for Veterans recognizes veterans and honors their service by fulfilling their final dream, providing inspiration, comfort and closure near the end of their lives.
Wayne Bollig, Kansas Veterans Affairs deputy director, and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp honored Hiestand with special awards Friday afternoon.
Bollig presented Hiestand with a Dream Foundation challenge coin as a token of gratitude for his military service. A basket of “goodies,” was also provided to remember his special day.
“Gary is the recipient of a Dream Foundation wish request. They’ve already delivered the hearing mechanism,” Bollig said. “These are things to remember this day and you just let you know we’re all thinking of you.”
Hiestand said, “I’ll remember it. Don’t worry.”
Bollig read a letter from Governor Sam Brownback:
“On behalf of the great state of Kansas, I’m pleased to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your service to this country. I hope this special hearing aid from the Dream Foundation allows you to hear your TV and conversations with family and friends.
“Thank you for your service in the U.S. Navy. I am proud to serve Kansans such as yourself. You had to sacrifice many things. I commend you for the courage and strength to shoulder that burden. You have the thanks of the entire state of Kansas for your dedication protecting our nation.”
Congressman Huelskamp provided a U.S. flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol for Hiestand.
“It’s an honor to be here today,” Huelskamp said. “I was touched by your letter to the Dream Foundation. We thank you for your service for your time in the Navy. It’s an inspirational story to hear what the Dream Foundation has done for you.”
“I will fly that flag at my home every day,” Hiestand said.