Brothers find way to pay it forward

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SYCAMORE – Just more than a year ago, the McHenry family of Sycamore was faced with the loss of their son and brother, 24-year-old Lance Cpl. Christopher “Chris” McHenry.


On March 4, 2013, McHenry died by his own hand while on assignment in Okinawa, Japan. His death left his parents, Bobbie and Gary, and brothers, Cole and Zach, with more questions than answers.


As each tried to process Chris’ death, the McHenrys reached out to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an organization developed 20 years ago for the loved ones of those who served and died in the military, no matter the circumstances.


In November, TAPS flew the McHenrys to Colorado Springs, Colo., where they and hundreds of others attended grief camp.


“We each had our own counselor that we talked to,” Zach said, describing one of the grief exercises he did there. “It really helped.”


The camp was so helpful, in fact, the brothers will be hosting an event to give back to TAPS, as they continue to assist other families.


“One night, I had this idea – I wanted to do something to help TAPS for what they did for us,” said Cole. “I thought of a way to use bowling to pay it forward.”


Cole went to his mom the next day with his idea. From 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. April 13, a bowling event will be held at The Meadow bowling alley, 210 Racetrack Road, Washington, with proceeds going to TAPS.


Registration is required. A $20 donation will include three games of bowling with shoes. A silent auction will also be held during the event.


In March 2013, hoping to see Chris and unaware of his temporary assignment in Japan, the McHenry family traveled to North Carolina, where he was stationed at Camp Lejeune. They were there when Marines knocked on their door in Greene County.


“My brother, Don, was taking care of the dogs for us (while they were away). He calls me and said, ‘Bobbie, some Marines and the state police were at the house but they wouldn’t tell me anything. They asked for the address where you are.’ I spent 20 minutes waiting,” Bobbie said. “I was standing on the deck (of a rental property) watching the parking lot when three Marines arrived.”


Although Chris, a mechanic, completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Bobbie said her son did not experience anything that would have led to post-traumatic stress disorder. The family does not blame his military service for his death.


“He was an honor student in high school (at West Greene). He had lots of friends. When he was younger, he played baseball, basketball and soccer. He was a writer. He loved writing,” Bobbie said. “It was very important to Chris to be a good role model for his brothers. He was a beautiful person, always happy.”


At a memorial service March 23, 2013, the Patriot Riders stood watch as more than 200 people filed into the Unity Presbyterian Church in Graysville. A military service followed.


“It was amazing,” Bobbie said.


Three months later, the McHenrys contacted TAPS. This May they will “pay it forward” at the 2014 National Military Survivor Seminar and Grief Camp in Washington, D.C., when they present TAPS with money from the bowling fundraiser and any other donations.


To register for bowling, contact Bobbie at 724-627-9928 or 724-322-6443. Donations may be made by sending checks payable to TAPS, c/o Bobbie McHenry, 1222 W.W. Railroad Road, Sycamore, PA 15364.


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