Terminally ill veteran who got one last motorcycle ride passes away

A local veteran and terminally ill hospice patient who had a final wish granted in February when hospice staff organized a final motorcycle ride for him has passed away.

The Marion VA Medical Center in Marion, Illinois, says Vernell Holderfield passed away Thursday at the medical center, surrounded by family and friends. 

Marion VA says Holderfield’s family, along with his VA family and caretakers, want to thank everyone who came out to honor the Marine veteran’s last wish when he took a motorcycle ride on Feb. 19. He hadn’t been able to ride a motorcycle in 10 years, and Holderfield said it was the best day of his life. 

More than 100 people showed up to support Holderfield on his last ride, including the Marion City Fire Department and Marion Police Department, Heartland Regional hospital staff, local Harley dealers and members of the Marion VFW Post 1301.

What Marion VA says started as a joke about riding a motorcycle again ended with Holderfield joking he “was going back to college” as he made the decision to donate his body to a local school for research. Holderfield was passionate about educating others about suicide: something he had considered once, but gathered the courage to ask for help. He also hoped other Veterans would have their last wishes granted, as his was.

A memorial service will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 26, at the Wilson-McReynolds Funeral Home in Marion.

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