Lee Hernandez is a 47 year old, army veteran who is currently in hospice care at home after serving for eighteen years. A series of strokes and brain surgeries has left the vet, who served a tour in Iraq years ago, with cognitive, vision and hearing impairments. The cause of his five-year-long terminal illness is unclear and doctors can do nothing more but keep him comfortable as he goes.
And all he wants to do in the time he has left is to hear from you. Hernadez’s wife, Ernestine, reached out to “Caregivers of Wounded Warriors” for support after her husband asked to hold his phone, waiting for family and friends to call. When no one did, he told his wife, dejectedly, “I guess no one wants to talk to me.”
Her request? That strangers — both veterans and civilians, pick up the phone or shoot a quick text to let her husband know that he’s not alone. “It broke my heart,” said Ernestine, of her husband’s disappointment during those two hours. “[Lee’s] speech is not very well, so many people didn’t take much interest or want to talk to him,” she told AZ Central.
“Caregivers of Wounded Warriors”connected Ernestine with the Arizona Veterans Forum Facebook group, which shared Hernandez’s plea. The calls and messages started pouring in. Hernandez couldn’t have been more wrong — people did want to talk to him. “A lot of people call to pray with him,” Ernestine said. “It really uplifts him.”
Hernandez and his family don’t want the connection to stop, which is where we all come in. Between 2 and 6 p.m. Arizona time, when he’s alert despite pain medications, you can call or text 210-632-6778 to speak with Hernandez or his wife (who will relay his message). He may not be able to read the text messages himself or articulate his thanks clearly (his speech is slurred from illness), but our small action, combined with “his strong will keeps him going,” said his wife.
If he or his wife don’t pick up the phone, try again later or leave a voicemail — at times, Hernandez is in too much pain to speak or function, said Ernestine. But he will, at some point, read or hear your well wishes. “Thank you everyone for your calls and support. I am trying to give him the best life I am able to with the help of my mom,” Ernestine said. “The experience is very painful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”