Terminally ill veteran’s final wish fulfilled
MARION, IL —
How far would you go to help make a terminally ill man’s final wish come true?
Hundreds of people came out to the Marion VA Friday afternoon to support and cheer on a local veteran during his final ride. Staff, friends and total strangers pitched in to make the day one Walter Vernell Holderfield would never forget.
The roar of motorcycles filled the air at the Marion VA —music to the ears of Walter Vernell Holderfield. A veteran and terminally ill hospice patient, he hadn’t been able to get on his motorcycle in 10 years, but a few nurses found a way to get him back on a bike.
"It started off as a joke. She was going to get him back on a bike. And then it turned in to that he really wanted to do this as a last wish," said Jessica Watkins, a registered nurse at the Marion VA and one of Vernell’s nurses.
But the marine wasn’t alone for the ride. He sat proudly on the back of Mike Harriss’ bike.
"I was glad to do it. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, I would have been here," said Harriss. He said it was an honor to be there, and he’d do it again for Vernell in a heartbeat.
Hundreds came out to ride alongside him as he took his last spin. Vernell’s nephew Shawn Holderfield says seeing that kind of support is breathtaking.
"It’s amazing. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but after seeing the commitment from the community, it’s overwhelming,” said Shawn Holderfield, Vernell’s nephew.
"It’s heartbreaking, it really is, that this had to be his last wish. But I’m glad he finally got it,” Watkins said.
It was the chance to feel the wind on his face while surrounded by loved ones.
"And his smile, it was the best thing. After the ride was over, he told us it was the best day of his life,” Watkins said.
Now, it’s a memory he can hold onto forever.