View Full Version : A little help from their friends

12-19-07, 07:14 AM
A little help from their friends

December 19, 2007 - 12:53AM

Tom Hentze knew that Marines take care of their own. He saw it firsthand even before he joined the Corps. But Tuesday was the first time he realized just how much that "taking care" can mean.

About 100 Marines, sailors and other volunteers spent Tuesday working on Hentze's house: hanging dry wall and doors, fixing plumbing, painting, landscaping and installing new fixtures.

"We got everything but Ty Pennington," Hentze said, referring to the star of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Hentze's struggles began earlier this year. Hentze, a retired Marine staff sergeant, said he started to smell a "cotton-candy smell" on March 9, and then began to cry. He got in the car to drive to the doctor, but stopped the car and blacked out on the sidewalk just a block away from the doctor's office.

Doctors found a centimeter-sized tumor. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 brain cancer later that month.

Because the tumor was star-shaped, doctors were only able to remove the center, said Hentze's wife, Mary Hentze. After the surgery, he had to have dozens of radiation treatments, which he just completed this month. He went in for an MRI on Tuesday to see where he is.

Hentze was working as a mortgage broker before he was diagnosed, but the cancer and treatments have left him unable to work more than three or four days a month, he said. He also has trouble getting work done around the house.

That's where the Marines and sailors come in.

Marines with the disbursing office at Camp Lejeune had planned to adopt a family for Christmas - possibly collecting food and toys for a family in need, said Master Sgt. Bradley Newton.

One of the Marines - Sgt. Nicole Farmer - goes to church with the Hentzes and brought their story to the command. Newton said they knew they needed to do more than provide a few cans of food.

They found volunteers - some retired, some active duty - and donations to help go above and beyond the few small repairs the Hentzes had asked for.

The outpouring of support was overwhelming, Mary Hentze said.

"He's always said 'Marines take care of their own,'" she said. "But the community has stepped up more than I could ever have imagined."

Tom Hentze said he is used to helping others, so to be on the receiving end of that care is "overwhelming."

"You never expect that you're going to be the one taken care of," he said.

The repairs - scheduled to be completed today when the Hentzes return from a donated room at the Fairfield Inn - will cut down on stress for the family of five, Mary Hentze said.

"Now the house will be in order and we won't have to worry about it," she said. "Now he can just concentrate on getting better."

The Hentze's teenage daughter is not a great fan of Jacksonville, Mary Hentze said, but this experience has shown the whole family how warm the community can be.

"You wouldn't get this kind of (support) in a big city," she said. "Jacksonville's more than all those negative things that people say. People care about you."

Contact military reporter Jennifer Hlad at jhlad@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 8467. To comment on this story, visit www.jdnews.com.