When Tony Matinchek got the call, asking if he was interested in volunteering at the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" build in Beaufort, it did not take long to make a decision.
Marine Staff Sgt. Bill Dickinson - now serving in Afghanistan - and his family of six were getting a new home. Matinchek, who owns Matinchek Painting Plus in Rock Hill, served in the Marine Corps for eight years.
No discussion, decision made.
While Matinchek has never met Dickinson, he knows they share the bond Marines instill in their recruits from Day One. He knew that Dickinson, like himself and millions of other recruits, had made the bus trip to Parris Island down a long, dark road.
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"You are young and scared to death," Matinchek said. "The first thing you see is a screaming Marine." In those first few seconds you know whether you have what it takes to become a Marine, he said.
Matinchek also knows about fighting the war on terrorism.
Dickinson deployed Nov. 5 to Afghanistan with a Marine Aviation logistics squadron. Just hours before deploying he was working on his Beaufort home which had water damage and mold. The mold made his family sick.
Dickinson, who has been in the Marine Corps for 17 years, is not expected home until May.
Matinchek enlisted in the Marine Corps out of high school in 1979. At 6:22 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1983, a blast rattled the Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon.
Matinchek, conditioned by the Corps to awaken at "0-dark-thirty" heard the "pop, pop, pop" of gunfire, the bang as a truck loaded with 6 tons of TNT smashed through the gate, and then exploded as the truck struck a four-story building.
The explosion knocked him off his feet. It demolished the building.
"There was a huge hole where the building used to stand," he said. "There was a pile of rubble with people and parts all over the place."
Two-hundred, forty-one Marines, sailors and soldiers died in the blast. Fifty-eight French soldiers perished. Two-hundred, twenty of the dead were Marines.
The image remains as vivid today as it was 27 years ago for Matinchek.
So when the call came to help another Marine, Matinchek assembled a six-man crew, got the Sherwin Williams store on Cherry Road to donate $1,000 of materials, piled his trucks with ladders and other gear, and left for Beaufort.
At the job site, Matinchek found many other Marines, some currently serving and some retired, pulled by the same sense of brotherhood. But he also found thousands of other volunteers who came just to help a family in need.
His job was to help coordinate the painting of the 4,000 square-foot, two-story, Lowcountry plantation house with six bedrooms.
There were 30 interior colors. Some bedrooms had has many as six colors. Trim work was often painted black and red. Because of the speed of construction, painters were often priming, putting on a final coat and doing trim work in a room - all at the same time.
"I've never seen a color schedule that intense," he said.
A few of the volunteers had painting experience. Most had done little more than paint their own bedroom or bathroom.
But with an esprit de corps that would have made any military organization proud, the volunteers got the job done, sometimes by sheer numbers.
"There were 20 to 30 people for a task that would usually take two people," Matinchek said. Behind that group were another 20 people providing the needed supplies and behind that were roving groups of people bringing food and drink to the volunteers - many of whom worked long shifts. The number of volunteers and their dedication is a primary reason "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" can build a house within a few days.
"It was so organized all you had to do was work," he said.
Painting is something that Matinchek has always done.
He painted in high school to earn extra income. He painted while in the Corps, too. During his off-time, he sometimes earned more money than the $309 monthly salary he earned wearing his stripes.
When he left the Corps, there was no question about what he would do. A native of Rock Hill, he returned to area 12 years ago. Among his clients are professional football and basketball players and their coaches.
Matinchek also was impressed with the organization of "Extreme Makeover" planners. All the necessary materials to build a house were scattered across neighboring yards like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The show promised to restore everyone's yard after the build was complete, Matinchek said. To make sure things were quickly inspected, the show had a tent for the county's code inspectors and one was on site at all times, he said.
He and his crew spent 31/2 days in Beaufort. They left before the "reveal," the day hundreds of onlookers line the streets to hear the family shout, "Move that bus!"
He's anxious to see the final TV version of the build, which might air later in the spring.
He met designer Paul DiMeo and had his picture taken with him. He did not get to meet Ty Pennington, the show's host. Most of his interaction was with the show's staff, not the stars.
"I want to see how TV gives a perception of how things were done," he said.
The experience has kindled a desire to do more volunteer work. It also rekindled his memories of his service to the Corps.
"It brought back so many memories ... you need that connection."
And it reminded him of why Marines are Marines.
At one time during the build, Matinchek found himself working with a currently serving Marine gunnery sergeant.
They talked about the build.
"He said, 'You do anything for another Marine,'" Matinchek recalled.
"That's the bottom line."