Sailor fires up lawn mower for deployed Marines, sailors

18 Sep 2014 | Cpl. Cameron Payne

When gearing up for a deployment, Marines are taught many different ways to organize their affairs to ensure the safety and well-being of their loved ones left on the home front.

For a few families living in Heroes Manor aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, their fenced-in yards required cutting while their Marine was away, and two individuals aboard base took it upon themselves to provide lawn care services at no cost.

“We originally got the idea while serving on the color guard,” said Seaman Kyle Tillman, a hospitalman with family medicine at Naval Hospital aboard base and a native of Hamburg, Iowa. “We wanted to think outside of the box and provide a service that was needed.”

Although it was the two sailors’ idea, Tillman took the plan and ran with it, said Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Vaningen, a biomedical equipment technician with Naval Hospital.

“Think about what he is doing,” said Vaningen a native of Holland, Michigan. “If you were deployed, would you want your wife outside cutting the grass in 90 degree weather.”

With their plan to impact the community, the duo contacted Lincoln Military Housing and were given the green light to put their mowers to work.

“It is actually pretty funny that I am out here cutting the grass for these families,” said Tillman. “Before I joined the Navy, my grandfather would always ask me to do the lawn, and I would tell him no. I attribute the morals, values and core ethics the Navy has taught me to why I offer my time to these families.”

To date, Tillman has cut the lawns of 12 families in the housing community, all of them completely free.

“A lot of the time when I get finished the spouses will ask me how much they owe me and are surprised when I tell them there is no charge,” said Tillman. “Even when they insist on paying, the money we receive is donated to the First Class Petty Officers Association.”

In the coming months, Tillman plans on continuing his work, and although he plans to move in the near future, he plans on passing on his work to others looking to get involved with the community.

“I always encourage anyone looking to help to join me,” said Tillman. “As service members, this is what we do. We give back.”