Base fulfills hospice patient's dream

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
Lackland AFB recently played a significant role in fulfilling a life-long dream for an 88-year-old cancer patient from San Marcos, Texas through Dream-A-Dream, a last-wish program for terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live.

Dwight Gutzler had always wanted to sit in the cockpit of an F-15 Eagle. Dream A Dream, a program under Central Texas Medical Center hospice care, couldn't fulfill that particular request but came up with the next best thing - arranging for Mr. Gutzler to see an F-15 Eagle at the Lackland AFB Air Park.

The Dream-A-Dream program began six years ago and is funded through grants, donations and fundraisers. The program has fulfilled a variety of requests, from as simple as providing a patient with an electric razor to the more complicated arrangement of a hot air balloon ride.

The request list now includes visiting an F-15 eagle at an Air Force base.

Not only did Mr. Gutzler view an F-15 Eagle up close and personal, the red carpet was rolled out for him and his four-person CTMC hospice care entourage. It included a guided base tour, lunch and a personal visit with Col. William H. Mott V, 37th Training Wing commander.

"Everyone deserves that one dream, that one wish," said Lisa Adams, CTMC Hospice Care public relations coordinator. "It was Mr. Gutzler's life-long dream to sit in an F-15 and this was close enough. He's happy. When we told him we were coming to Lackland AFB to see the F-15, he got so excited."

Mr. Gutzler still lives at home in San Marcos with his wife, but has been under hospice care for the past several months. Diagnosed with colon cancer, CTMC hospice care manager Sylvia Reyes said Mr. Gutzler has exceeded his doctors' timeline.

"He takes it one day at a time," she said.

Mr. Gutzler worked and retired from McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, which was later acquired by Boeing. That plant produced the F-15 Eagle, where he had hoped to join the assembly line.

However, a severe loss of hearing since childhood kept Mr. Gutzler off the line, just as it prevented him from joining any military branch in World War II.

"I even cheated on my hearing test (for the military), but when they (examined) my ears, they still wouldn't let me in," he said.

After the morning-long tour ended with lunch at the Gateway Club, Colonel Mott surprised the group before their trek back to San Marcos, Texas.

He talked with Mr. Gutzler for about 30 minutes, much of that time spent discussing the F-15 Eagle ; especially when Colonel Mott revealed he was a former F-15  Eagle pilot.

Rising to leave, Colonel Mott had one last surprise for Mr. Gutzler -- a commander's coin that he presented to the special guest "as a little memento of your day at Lackland."

With a hearty laugh, Mr. Gutzler exclaimed to the commander, "I'll show her (his wife) the coin, but it's mine."

And before Colonel Mott could depart, Ms. Adams expressed the group's sentiments the best.

"He's really grateful," she told the commander. "You fulfilled his dream."