LARNED — When the American Legion Riders started several years ago in Larned, Gary Hiestand was a charter member.
The motorcycle-loving Legion Riders crew was launched by a fearsome fivesome of Hiestand, Sonny McDonald, Terry Harris, Steve Gross and Dennis Wilson. The Riders are a staple during holiday parades. They provide proper respect and funeral escort for veterans at their final services.
Hiestand has endured tough times. There are visible signs of his battle with cancer. He’s truly an American hero.
The U.S. Naval veteran served from 1957-1960 in San Diego and Honolulu. He was honored recently at a Dream Foundation ceremony arranged by his daughters with initial help from Gentiva Hospice in Hutchinson, Kansas.
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.
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.
Gentiva caretakers jump started the process of applying through the Dream Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The ceremony provided Hiestand with a perfect tribute.
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.
Congressman Huelskamp provided a U.S. flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol for Hiestand.
Hiestand was properly recognized as an American hero by his friends and family.
“This brings tears to my eyes,” said Hiestand, who is assisted by Hospice care through Gentiva Hospice of Hutchinson. “I thank everybody here.”
We all thank you too, Gary. Our country’s freedom is because of people like you.