Here's how a Vietnam vet got his dying wish to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Dec 21, 2017

Being part of the Star Wars fandom is great. With fellow fans, you can have hours-long discussions about the movies, show up to the midnight premieres in costume, and, when things get rough, help each other out.

The latter came true for Ron Villemaire, a 69-year-old veteran of the Air Force (24 years) and Vietnam War (1970-1971) and a major lover of Star Wars. Unfortunately, Mr. Villemaire was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer earlier in 2017 and was put on constant hospice care in Bedford, New Hampshire. where his condition worsened. His daughter, Elizabeth Ngo, had bought tickets for The Last Jedi before her father's health had declined, but didn't give up. Determined that her dad should see the movie, she put out a call for help on social media:

social-media

When she didn't get a bigger response on Twitter, Elizabeth took to Facebook, asking her friends to follow her on Twitter and retweet the original message. Seeing this, her cousin called television station WMUR, who then interviewed Ron. This got the ball rolling as the fire chief of the New Boston Fire Department, Daniel MacDonald, was contacted. In turn, he called the deputy fire chiefs in Bedford, and soon, Elizabeth's phone was ringing with people who just wanted to help her dad see The Last Jedi. They She even heard from the 501st Legion, a globe-spanning Star Wars fan orginization dedicated to making and wearing the most accurate franchise-relevant costumes possible. 

"I cried a lot," Elizabeth told SYFY WIRE today on the phone. "I was overwhelmed [with] happy tears, and taking as many pictures and videos as I could. Just kind of eating it up just watching the reaction on my dad’s face. I’ve seen him happy before, but this was pretty crazy happy. This was happier than on my wedding day happy," she finished with a laugh. 

Escorted by first responders, Stormtroopers, and Darth Vader himself, Ron was taken via gurney to the movie theater where a 501st Legion delegation made up of of Jedis, Ewoks, Chewbacca, and Kylo Ren was waiting to greet him.

"I’m talking official uniforms type costumes," Ron said during the same phone call with SYFY WIRE. "They could have been the movie stars themselves. It was awesome! And they were there to help me enjoy the movie. I couldn’t believe it. Nobody’s ever done anything like that for me in my life, I never expected anything like that in my life."

Obviously, he had to take a photo with Chewie, one of his favorite characters along with Rey. 

Courtesy of Elizabeth Ngo

O'Neil Cinemas in Epping, New Hampshire donated the use of the theater to Ron and his whole family. A hospital bed with an air mattress provided by the Veteran's Association was placed in the theater so he'd be as comfortable as possible during the two-and-a-half hour runtime. 

Villemaire, who attended the screening wearing a T-shirt with the original A New Hope poster printed on it, may be as big a Star Wars fan as they come. He describes himself as a "major league" fanatic from the very start. "Ever since they came out in ’77," he said. "And once the books followed, when Timothy Zahn wrote Heir to the Empire, I went totally nuts and I’ve been a super fan ever since." A true lover of the expanded universe, he has around 250 Star Wars books. He's currently on Canto Bight (Star Wars): Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Plus, Elizabeth says he owns "every Star Wars Christmas ornament that Hallmark could possibly put out."

When he heard that he was going to see The Last Jedi, Ron was ecstatic. With a laugh, he told us, "I’m telling ya, I could not believe that it was actually going to happen. The fire department chief came in here to talk to me and told me what they were planning on doing. I could have jumped right out of the bed with excitement!" 

Having seen the film, Ron says that it's his favorite Star Wars to date. "This one had the best action of any [Star Wars] movie and it has opened up doors for so much more to happen," said Villemaire. One of his favorite moments included Luke (Mark Hamill) Open eye Close eye Show Spoiler tossing the lightsaber over his shoulder. "I expected a hundred different things out of Luke, but for him to just take it and just throw it away, I couldn’t believe that."

His daughter loved it too, but she says she missed a lot of it for a good reason: "I kept looking [over] at his reaction." 

As for the polarizing reactions to the movie, Ron is an optimist. "There’s always going to be somebody that’s going to be negative," he said. "Like when they started the [prequel] trilogy with the Gungans and stuff. Everybody went one way or the other. Same thing when they just did Rogue One and they did the CGI of Princess Leia. A lot of people were upset about that. That didn’t bother me at all. I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. They can keep makin’ em and I love it just the way it is."

Continuing with his upbeat attitude, Ron continued with just how grateful he is to everyone who made the unique moviegoing experience a reality. "I wish that I could just do something for each and every one of them to make them feel just the way I feel because of what they’ve done for me," he said. "They responded in the best way possible. They reached out with their hearts. It truly is a miracle."