DALLAS — Monday morning, Jill Starbuck, and her partner, Richard, boarded a plane to fulfill a dream.
Starbuck, a military veteran, has pancreatic cancer and is on hospice. She wanted to make a last trip to Hawaii before she becomes too weak.
Most of all, though, she wanted to share the experience with Richard, who she calls “my rock and my love.”
Dreams for Veterans, part of nonprofit Dream Foundation, which grants the wishes of terminally ill adults, gave her that opportunity after receiving a heart-felt appeal from Starbuck.
“Richard and I have been together for four years, and for half of that time, I have been sick,” Starbuck wrote in her letter to the foundation. “He is my rock. He has supported me and cared for me, and has done that because he loves me. I know he could have left our relationship at any time,” Starbuck continued. “He had no obligation to stay. We both feel overwhelmed sometimes, but he has never faltered.”
Starbuck has been unable to work since her diagnosis, so the couple can’t afford to pay for the trip themselves.
“I would like to go someplace with Richard to create a special memory for us both,” she wrote.
She’s been to Hawaii before — and recalls fondly the sense of calm that particular location on the earth provided her.
“I have never seen another place quite like it,” Starbuck wrote. “I long to see this again before I die. And I long to share it with my rock and my love, Richard. ... Most of all, I want to sit by the beach, holding his hand and watching the waves come in, in the beautiful Hawaii of my most peaceful memory.”
The couple will stay at Coconut Condos on Maui, attend a VIP luau for two, and have a dream wedding on the beach.
Dreams for Veterans worked with Maui’s Angels, Coconut Condos, Hertz, Hyatt and Alaska Airlines to make Starbuck's dream possible. Those types of partnerships have made it possible for the organization to fulfill the dreams of every qualified applicant since Dreams for Veterans began in 2015.
Thursday, Polk County’s Veteran Services Officer Marie McCandless, VSO office assistant Stephanie Torres, and Polk County commissioners Jennifer Wheeler and Mike Ainsworth delivered a basket full of beach-ready swag.
“In this basket is there’s some goodies for you, along with your plane tickets,” McCandless said.
Starbuck still seemed in that shock the foundation granted her wish. She heard of the program through her Willamette Valley Hospice caretakers.
“These hospice people are the most wonderful people in the world,” she said. “They are the ones that encouraged me to apply for this.”
Starbuck said she thought her service didn’t stack up to what others had given. She didn’t go to war, she said.
McCandless wasn’t hearing any of that.
“You are a veteran, right? You served our country,” McCandless said. “We are very thankful to you for your service.”
Starbuck said enjoyed her time in the Marine Reserves. She served from 1984 to 1987.
“It was the time of my life, one of them. There’s the other time of my life,” she said, pointing to Richard. “I just wish I got that time of my life a little sooner.”
Monday morning the couple was flying toward what they hope will be another “time of their lives.”
“When we get back, I will be glad to tell you all about it,” Starbuck told McCandless. “I know he is going to like it.”
For more information about Dreams for Veterans: http://www.dreamfoundation.org/veterans.