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How to Make a Wish of a Lifetime Come True for a Veteran

AARP-affiliated group determined to celebrate sacrifice in uniform

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Ida Settle meeting the Blue Angels in 2014 for her Wish of a Lifetime.
Wish of a Lifetime from AARP

Wish of a Lifetime (WOL) wants to honor those who have served.

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You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

The mission of the group, a charitable affiliate of AARP since 2020, is to grant long-held wishes to deserving people who cannot achieve their dream themselves. WOL has made more than 2,000 wishes come true since its founding 14 years ago.

Jared Bloomfield, WOL’s director of field programs, told AARP Veteran Report that about a quarter of wish recipients have been veterans and he wants to step this up.

“It is absolutely paramount that our amazing veterans step forward and share their courageous journey with us,” he said.

Here’s what veterans and their families need to know about Wish of a Lifetime.

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What sort of wishes are granted?

Wishes should “have a true and deep amount of connection to them,” Bloomfield said. WOL helps the recipient overcome financial, aging and logistical challenges.

WOL doesn’t send people on vacation, buy them technology or home furnishings, or help them find a job. WOL stays focused on making moving, selfless, lifelong wishes come true. WOL also doesn’t create experiences that people can create by themselves.

Recipients must be at least 65 and live in the United States.

How can a veteran apply?

WOL makes submitting wishes easy. People can submit the wish request online or print and mail an application. Wish recipients can submit the application themselves, but often it is prepared by a relative, friend or caregiver.

Questions include:

  • What makes this wish meaningful to you?
  • How will the wish inspire others?
  • Why are you unable to fulfill this wish on your own?
  • One section asks what the wish recipient has done to give back to the community. Veterans are invited to respond with details about their time in uniform.

What happens after a wish request is submitted?

WOL staff members review wishes and decide which to pursue. If a wish request passes this initial review, WOL talks with the potential recipient and interviews people who assisted with the application or are connected to the wish. The goal is to understand the significance of the wish and how granting it would impact and honor the recipient and inspire others.

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After this information-gathering phase, a report is sent to the Wish Validation Committee. This group chooses the final wish recipients. The final step? WOL team members make the wish come true.

How can you help WOL connect with veterans?

Skepticism is an obstacle WOL encounters. The opportunity can seem too good to be true. That’s why it’s important for people to spread the message about WOL and share what it does with anyone in their community who may know a deserving recipient.

Another way to support WOL is to take part in a wish. That could mean being part of a gathering at an airport or accompanying the wish recipient for part of the experience.

A third option is to participate in a WOL program that delivers cards on Valentine’s Day to older adults. More information about this is available through the AARP Volunteer Portal.

The bottom line

One veteran returned to the shores of Normandy. Another flew in a fighter jet. WOL recipients have been treated to a VIP trip to a reunion and taken to Washington to visit national memorials.

All of these wishes came true because the veterans or people in their network decided to take that first step and apply. “Through granting wishes to veterans,” Bloomfield said, “we are able to celebrate their sacrifice.”

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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