After third round of cancer, oncology staff give Chesapeake Vietnam veteran his last wish

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NORFOLK, Va. - The wife of a Vietnam veteran and long-time Norfolk Police Officer jokes that he has nine lives.

David Thacker, who currently lives in Chesapeake, served with the United States Marines in Vietnam.

He was badly burned in an explosion when he heroically put out a fire on an ammunition truck with his bare hands.

"They say I saved 400 short tons of ammunition and countless lives," Thacker said.

He went on to serve for the Norfolk Police Department for more than 30 years.

However, the herbicide and defoliant Agent Orange used by the military during his time in Vietnam, came back to haunt him in 2005 in the form of cancer.

It's what brought him to the Lake Wright radiation department with Virginia Oncology Associates.

"They are the greatest in the world," Thacker said.

He's the man behind the infamous bell on the wall with the quote, 'Some days will be cloudy, some days will have sun, ring this bell when your treatments are done.'

Thacker made it so patients can ring the bell every time they complete radiation or chemotherapy.

After several heart attacks and three rounds of cancer, he's used it a few times himself.

"They said the last one was going to take me out, but somebody had a better idea," he says. "I've had so many CT's I glow in the dark."

Thacker lost a lot over the years, including his ability to speak and eat, but never his sense of humor, or the reality that the cancer could eventually take his life.

It's what led to a letter that he left one day at the Oncology Associates, detailing his one last wish, to be buried in his "dress blues."

"I read the letter and immediately thought, we’ve got to do something we’ve got to figure this out," says Kelly Gargiulo, a radiation therapist.

Gargiulo quickly realized the issue--he did not have any.

She contacted Mike Ronca, a Navy submarine veteran and Sales Manager with Caliber Home Loans.

"If you wore that uniform to fight in and that's what you want, it should be a non-event, not even an issue."

Within a week, at the Marine Corps Exchange, Thacker's wish became a reality.

"I never thought it would happen but through the Grace of God and some very special new friends it's come to pass," he says.

Thacker says he isn't planning on going anywhere yet.

However, when the time comes, he can do so at peace.

"Anybody that has trust in God can pull through, you just have to believe in yourself," he says. "Use me as an example. You can make it."