Terminally ill vet receives 300,000 text messages
NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - A local army veteran with a terminal illness had one final wish, and it's now coming true in ways he could have never imagined.
We recently went to New Braunfels to see how tens of thousands of phone calls and text messages are letting him know he's not alone in this fight.
Tina Hernandez has been reading her husband Lee a lot of letters lately. Letters from seemingly everywhere.
"From Hawaii, from New Zealand, from Scotland," says Lee’s cousin Lisa Martinez. Then there are the phone calls and voicemails.
And finally, the texts messages. Lots of text messages.
"170,000 text messages," explains Tina.
"The phone was just going off," says cousin Lisa. "Just going off."
"It's insane how viral this has gone," adds family friend Tawny Schlientz.
All of it for Lee Hernandez, 47.
"It makes me feel good because I know what he's gone through," says Lisa. "I've seen what he's gone through for the past five years."
Lee served 18 and a half years in the army. He did a tour in Iraq in the mid-2000's. But in recent years, his health has grown progressively worse. 21 strokes have now left Lee blind and under hospice care at home in New Braunfels with Tina - his wife of 14 years - and her mother.
"He was in a military of thousands of people," Tina says. "And now we ended up just being the three of us."
She says Lee began to feel increasingly isolated.
"He's like, 'Well, I guess nobody cares about me.' And it broke my soul."
So Tina reached out to a Wounded Warriors support group and told them about Lee's desire for calls and messages.
"I only expected like 1 or 2 people that would kind of feel sorry for us and be like, 'Oh ok.'"
But when the group shared Lee's story and his phone number on Facebook, it quickly went viral.
"By midnight I had like at least 10,000 messages," says Tina.
Lee and Tina try to respond to as many people as they can, but at times it can be overwhelming.
"It's overwhelming with joy," says Tina. "Because you're like, 'Wow, people really do care for you.'"
"I see his spirit has just livened up so much," adds cousin Lisa. "It’s like I've never seen it before."
Tina tells us their cell phone has stopped accepting text messages and voicemails and even has trouble holding a charge.
But the past few weeks of strangers reaching out through so many forms of communication have totally been worth it, far exceeding her wildest dreams.
In fact, while we were interviewing her, she managed to power their phone back on for a few moments, revealing an additional 160-thousand text messages.
"That's what I think is keeping Lee going," Tina says.