A Final Wish

A community helped give a dying man his final wish.

Dennis Hall of Oklahoma served in Vietnam from 1969-1970 with a Duster unit. The Duster was a nickname for the M42 40mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun that was called back into service during Vietnam.

Dennis had always wanted to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., but he and his family all assumed they’d have more time.

Then the 63-year-old was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that gave him less than a year to live.

“It’s his final wish,” his daughter Amanda Moss said, watching her father at The Wall on Tuesday.

Amanda traveled with him, as did his wife Frances and his granddaughter Bianca.

Amanda said that when they found out about the brain tumor, they decided to come to Washington, but had to figure out how to fund the trip.

A family friend recommended a yard sale to raise funds and their friends and community donated items to sell. Bianca contacted the local television station in hopes that they would tell people about the sale. Instead, the station did a story about Dennis and his wish to see The Wall.

The community response was overwhelming, Amanda and Frances said. People came to the sale and didn’t buy anything, but in just one day, the community had donated enough money to completely fund the trip. Initially it was just supposed to be Amanda and her dad, but the community raised enough to send Dennis, his wife, Amanda and Bianca to Washington to fulfill his final request.

As his wife pushed him to The Wall in a wheelchair, Dennis was overcome with tears.

When he neared the apex, Jan Scruggs met him there and presented him with an Education Center coin. Scruggs, the founder and builder of The Wall, and Dennis swapped stories about their Vietnam experiences and Dennis showed him photos.

“I’m glad you could make it,” Scruggs told him.

Hall had seen a traveling replica of The Wall in Texas years back, “but I wanted to come see this one,” he said.

Several of his friends are on The Wall, including Howard Ray Thomas Jr., who was killed on March 11, 1969 in Long Khanh, South Vietnam. The Army specialist four was from Oxford, Ala.

Dennis left a POW/MIA flag and a hat in honor of his friends.

His wife also knew a name on The Wall. She grew up with Carl E Wheeler of Moore, Oklahoma. He was killed in South Vietnam on Dec. 14, 1969.

“He’s always been proud of his military service, it kind of molded him,” Amanda said of her father. “For me, this trip makes it okay for him to die because I know I gave it to him. I can’t even tell you what it means to him. He deserves it.”

Dennis lifted himself out of his wheelchair and reached up to touch the name of a friend on The Wall. When he sat back down, he took a few minutes to let the tears flow freely.

He turned back to his family, but was still emotional. His daughter and his wife embraced him and they cried together.

Today, Dennis Hall got his dying wish.