Sgt. 1st Class Charles Ferguson led men and women in battle in Afghanistan and brought every one of his people home alive.
Ferguson, 40, is one of the top non-commissioned officers of the Army National Guard’s 178th Combat Engineer Battalion based in Rock Hill. He is a leader, a broad-shouldered man of action who is proud to have handled deserts and mountains and faced the Taliban in almost two years in Afghanistan.
But when a fire burned down his house and left him, his wife and their three daughters with just the clothes on their backs, the soldier everybody calls “Ferg” needed help.
That help two years ago came from fellow soldiers, the families of fellow soldiers and their friends, and the Family Readiness Group of the unit, which is made up of spouses and mothers and volunteers. The help came from community donations and love.
“There was no way I could have afforded all the expenses after the fire without the help of these generous people and all those who donated,” Ferguson said. “I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t done so much for us. The fire burned for more than two hours.
“We got out alive but had nothing but the clothes we were wearing.”
And now, those people who help soldiers and their families through the toughest of times need help preparing for the next emergency faced by a family from the battalion, which also has armories in Fort Mill, Chester, Lancaster and Wellford.
Families and friends are holding a yard sale and bake sale Saturday at the Rock Hill armory, with all the proceeds going into the same emergency fund that helped Ferguson and his family when they needed it most.
This sale is not about cheap deals on clothes and other great stuff. It is about helping the soldiers who left families for years, as Ferguson did, and fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places.
Two years ago, the Family Readiness Group and other volunteers sprang into action to help the Fergusons even before the fire was out. Donations helped pay for a hotel room for months, clothes, food and other essentials, as Ferguson and his family rebuilt their home and lives.
“No one ever expects a fire that takes everything from their family,” said Leanne Pressley, whose husband is in the 178th and who has been instrumental in assistance efforts for years. “And in this unit, we all are family.
“When family needs help, you help.”
Hundreds of area soldiers from the local armories have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Kosovo and homeland security missions in the 14 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Soldiers from the 178th have earned awards for courage and gallantry and guts in the worst of conditions in those wars.
During those deployments, families have had to endure, too. The Family Readiness Group collects donations and maintains a food pantry to make sure that no soldier’s family goes without.
“These soldiers always did their duty, no questions asked,” said Anne Cash, another volunteer with the Family Readiness Group. “These men and women have left their families behind and been heroes.
“What we can do as a community is make sure that we are there to help them in any emergency.”
Want to help?
What: Family and friends of the Army National Guard’s 178th Combat Engineer Battalion will host a yard and bake sale
When: 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
Where: National Guard Armory, 126 Airport Road, Rock Hill
Why: Proceeds will go to the Family Readiness Group, which assists families of the unit in need during the holidays and emergencies
Donations: Can be dropped off at the armory 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m to 2 p.m. Friday.
Information: Call Leanne Pressley at 803-371-0911