The year 2014 couldn’t have begun better for Gulf War Veteran Laura Thompson, who met her soulmate, Mark, in January. They were married by a justice of the peace and had planned a fairy-tale church wedding. But just six months later, Laura was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The Final Mission, created by the Louisville VAMC’s Voluntary Service,  grants wishes to dying Veterans, and Laura had three: a honeymoon, an engraved wedding ring for Mark, and keepsake boxes for each of her children.

Laura did get her wedding, a special gift of love from her sister Jodi, but due to worsening health, Laura and Mark never got their honeymoon. But she did get to spend her final days surrounded by family, love and comfort gifts.

Because Laura was unable to get her beach honeymoon, the VA volunteers made her a scented “beach on a tray,” including a noise machine to mimic the sound of waves, miniature beach chairs, sand and seashells.

Laura Thompson  passed away before Christmas at the age of 38.

The Final Mission and VA volunteers not only helped to bring peace of mind to Laura at the end of her life, it also brought her joy.

U.S. Army Veteran Adelina Hay Sowell is the founder of the Final Mission and the chief of Voluntary Services at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Our hope is that the Final Mission will convey to every Veteran and their family members that they are valued, cared for and honored, even though the last days of their life,” Sowell said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for not only the VA Medical center, but the community as a whole to surround them with love. Any group, organization, business or individual can partner with us in serving these Veterans.”

Sowell’s program was inspired by veteran Timothy Webb, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. In his last days, he was cared for in the VA hospice unit in Louisville, and a social worker learned of his love of University of Louisville football. Through the efforts of the hospice staff and volunteers, Webb received a visit from some of the University of Louisville football players.

We salute the generosity of all of the volunteers who gave of their time and resources to ease the passing of a woman who served and sacrificed for our freedom.