Around Rock Hill Saturday posterboards pointed to garage sales and yard sales. Neon pink and orange signs pointed toward deals and bargains. But one yard sale at the Rock Hill National Guard armory was a little bit different from the others.
The people who benefitted from the sale are 12,000 miles away, in Afghanistan.
Where there are no yard sales. Only machine guns and roadside bombs.
And a hope that in the mail will come something from home.
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All the money raised at the armory Saturday is for 168 soldiers in Afghanistan with the S.C. Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers, and the families that each one of those soldiers left behind when the unit left Rock Hill’s armory in July.
The money will help pay bills for families in case of a crisis, and buy items for care packages to send to the soldiers during the nine-month deployment.
The sale items were donated by people in the community and many of the military families themselves. The people who came to buy were people who wanted to support those soldiers and families. People lined up even before daylight, for bargains sure, but mainly to help the men and women so far from home.
Some of the soldiers are on a second, third, even fourth overseas deployment.
“The whole reason I came out here today was to help,” said Cecil Goddard of Rock Hill. “They deserve all I can do.”
Goddard carried around a Radio Flyer tricycle, a bargain for $2, and a fire truck, and other toys for his grandchildren.
“Those soldiers in Afghanistan are missing their kids right now, too - they can’t watch the kids play with toys,” Goddard said.
Phyllis Davis of Rock Hill, who described her family as “military from every generation,” said the families of soldiers left behind are the “unsung heroes” of the war effort.
“Every one of these wives, I thank them for what they are giving our country,” Davis said. “Our Army now is all volunteers. They left to go do this and we should thank them all. Every soldier who is gone left a family behind. Those families need us to support them.”
The 178th’s Family Readiness Group organized the yard sale and most of the volunteers who worked the sale were wives, sisters, mothers, girlfriends or daughters of soldiers who are gone. For weeks merchandise was gathered. The past week, at night, volunteers priced items, baked sweets, and shared in the camaraderie of having a loved one gone so far away.
Leigh Pressley, wife of soldier Colin Pressley in Afghanistan, said family members who are without a husband or father appreciate the generosity of people willing to help out. Trish Moore, girlfriend of deployed soldier Dan Ranucci, said the generosity of the public makes such a difference for the families.
Mothers and wives all fanned out through the racks and tables of stuff, helping the buyers find a bargain.
Harvey and Barbara Summerlin made three trips into the armory and back out to the car with goods purchased, ranging from books to clothes.
Maybe the Summerlins needed what they bought. Maybe not. They bought because these soldiers are so far away, and these families of those soldiers are here without them.
“This unit needs people to support it,” said Barbara Summerlin.
“Rock Hill supports its troops,” said Harvey Summerlin.
But this yard sale was more than finding cow salt and pepper shakers for 25 cents apiece. It was helping those soldiers that many of the buyers have never met.
“I like yard sales, but this was a priority to get here today,” said Joan Brooks of Rock Hill. “It is no sacrifice to try and help these soldiers who are sacrificing for all of us.”
Andrew Dys * 803-329-4065 * firstname.lastname@example.org