lee hernandez
Lee Hernandez, who served in the US Army for 18 years, has been inundated with calls and texts following an appeal by his wife Facebook

A US Army veteran with a terminal illness received so few messages from well-wishers that his dying request was to simply have strangers call him – just so he could speak to someone.

Lee Hernandez, who is under hospice care at his home in New Braunfels, Texas, suffers from a mystery illness that causes continuous strokes, which have affected his vision and cognitive abilities.

Doctors have been unable to pinpoint the cause of the 47-year-old's illness and say there is nothing more they can do but make him comfortable.

Facing a frightening future, the 18-year US veteran – who served a tour in Iraq – one day asked his wife to hold onto his phone "in case someone calls".

But after waiting hours nobody rang, prompting Lee to tell his partner: "I guess no one wants to talk to me."

"It broke my heart," wife Ernestine told the Arizona Republic. "[Lee's] speech is not very well, so many people didn't take much interest or want to talk to him."

Ernestine decided to reach out to Caregivers of Wounded Warriors – a support group for partners of injured servicemen and women – to ask others to contact Lee and wish him well.

She also organised for a message outlining his dying wish to be posted on the Arizona Veterans Forum Facebook group.

The post, made on Wednesday (12 July), has since gone viral. After just three days Lee was said to have received over 53,000 text messages and been inundated with calls from across the US and even abroad.

Ernestine says "a lot of people call to pray with him. It really uplifts him." She reads text messages and cards to Lee, who is blind, and says he loves to listen to the outpouring of support.

His story tugged the heartstrings of so many people he is also now being provided with a service dog and cleaning service, a post on the Arizona Veterans Forum said.

Even his old platoon he lost contact with has tracked him down and are making a trip to see him.

"Thank you everyone for your calls and support. I am trying to give him the best life I am able to with the help of my mom," Ernestine said.

Lee has been battling health issues for five years, but hit "rock bottom" more than a year ago.

Ernestine says her husband's body is deteriorating despite three brain surgeries. She described him as a "fighter" who has "beaten the odds and his strong will keeps him going".

In a video posted on her Facebook page on Friday, Lee can be heard saying: "Thank you all for your text messages and phone calls, and for thinking of me and supporting me. I appreciate it all."