When Ricky Montgomery was 47, and had repaired concrete trucks in Rock Hill for 19 years, his S.C. Army National Guard battalion needed volunteers to go to Afghanistan.
Montgomery left behind his wife, Beverly, and son, Cody, and spent a year in Afghanistan, along with about a hundred others from York County - from spring 2007 to 2008.
He not only kept trucks and Humvees running, he rode shotgun on those trucks on the most dangerous roads on earth.
"A man's man, a soldier's soldier," is how Steve Davis, chief warrant officer for the Rock Hill armory's motor pool where Montgomery works, described him.
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Davis is an Iraq veteran himself. He is built like a Buick - just like Montgomery. "Ricky was tough and dependable."
But in Afghanistan, Montgomery took the most pride in helping children with food and clothes and protection, said Beverly, his wife.
"He said the job was to protect the kids," Beverly Montgomery said. "Lots of times on the phone when he was there, he told me to go to Walmart, wherever, and send over there as much stuff as I could so he could give it away."
Montgomery came back from deployment and took a full-time civil service job with the maintenance shop at the Rock Hill armory, preparing the equipment for the Fort Mill unit's deployment to Afghanistan last year.
He bought a house - his first. He got a promotion to staff sergeant.
"We were doing better than ever before," Beverly Montgomery said.
But Montgomery wasn't able to be there when the Fort Mill unit returned to heroes' welcomes in late October.
He wasn't able to attend Veterans Day services a few days later.
He was home, in a bed, with oxygen canisters next to him.
At 50, Ricky Montgomery has bladder cancer, diagnosed in June. Chemotherapy and radiation were employed, but treatment has been ceased, said his wife.
Hospice & Community Care has been called in, and a hospital bed has been set up in the living room.
Montgomery used up all his sick leave and annual leave - finally running out of leave.
That's when his National Guard buddies stepped in. Buddies, for sure, but more.
"Ricky is family around here," said Davis, the boss of the motor pool, "and what we do is take care of family."
Guardsmen from throughout the state have donated leave time to Montgomery so he can continue to receive a paycheck. They have donated money to pay his mortgage.
A gas grill won by area guardsmen in a charity football game before Thanksgiving was donated by Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Medlin for a raffle that became far more than a gas grill raffle.
"Ricky Montgomery is a great guy and great soldier," Medlin said.
The winner of the raffle gave the grill back for a second auction; more money came in from other guardsmen, and with the help of so many people, the Montgomerys had almost $5,000 to help with bills.
"These guardsmen have been great to us," said Beverly Montgomery. "Like family."
Another benefit, set for Jan. 15 at the Rock Hill armory, will raise even more money through barbecue and entertainment.
"Ricky touched a lot of lives; this is just doing what is right by him," said Davis. "We are standing up for him."
A stand-up guy, Ricky Montgomery, who stood up for others until he couldn't stand up for himself anymore.
Yet around the Rock Hill armory, especially at the maintenance shop and motor pool, all are still standing up for Ricky Montgomery.
Want to help
What: Benefit for Staff Sgt. Ricky Montgomery
When: Noon, Jan. 15
Where: Rock Hill National Guard Armory, 126 Museum Road.
Tickets: $10 gets you a barbecue plate and live entertainment.
Help out: To donate or become a sponsor, call 803-465-4272, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.