HONOLULU — When a Vietnam veteran briefly stopped in Hawaii on his way home from war, he vowed to return one day to honor the people who perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, with just two months to live, Joseph Hooker is realizing his longtime dream.
The Marine Corps veteran, who has heart disease and cancer, traveled from his home in Essex, Maryland, to Honolulu to visit the site of the Japanese attack that pushed the United States into World War II. The Dream Foundation, which grants wishes for those who have life expectancies of a year or less, arranged for the journey.
Hooker, his brother and sister-in-law, who are his caregivers, will get a private tour of the battleship USS Missouri on Wednesday morning.
The Hawaii dream stems from a 20-minute stop in the islands in 1971 as he headed home from Vietnam, Hooker said from his Waikiki hotel room Tuesday. He was let off the ship just long enough to make a phone call to his family and eat some ice cream. He promised to come back someday "to honor the men and women that gave their life at Pearl Harbor."
The Dream Foundation's new program, Dreams for Veterans, made Hooker's wish possible. In applying, Hooker wrote a letter saying that he longed to visit Pearl Harbor to "learn, touch and understand what happened there."
In the letter, he described voluntarily enlisting in the Marine Corps when he was 17 years old, saying, "My heart was telling me that I was a Marine and that I was going to work hard and train to be the best."
The decorated veteran moved up through the ranks to become a sergeant.
"Truly, it is an honor for us to serve those who have bravely served our country," said Kisa Heyer, executive director of the Dream Foundation. "Mr. Hooker's final wish is a testament to his patriotism and sense of duty."
Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .