Musselman High School senior Josh Ferguson volunteered to help with the school’s Take a Veteran to School celebration Thursday not knowing he would meet a family relative — who served in World War II — for the first time.
Charles L. Ferguson, 88, Ferguson’s cousin four times removed, was among more than two dozen veterans and active duty soldiers honored at the event.
Josh, 17, said he knew of his relative and his service in the military thanks to his grandmother, but had never met his great-grandfather’s first cousin, who served in the Army and the Air Force.
Their meeting before the lunch that was provided to the veterans and their guests for Thursday’s celebration happened simply after discovering they shared the same last name.
The elder Ferguson said he was drafted into the Army in 1943 and served with the 461st Quartermaster until the end of the war. He re-enlisted with the Air Force in 1946 and served until 1970, he said.
Trinity Yates, who sat with Charles Ferguson, his wife, Evelyn, and Josh Ferguson, invited Vietnam War veteran Lorenzo Everett to Thursday’s event.
Trinity said Everett, 66, and her grandmother are on the same bowling team and has watched Yates bowl for a number of years.
Trinity, 17, said Everett hasn’t talked much about his military service until recently, but said she enjoys talking with him, regardless.
Everett said he served in the Army for 12 years, two years in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970.
Liah Lipscomb, who invited her father, Charles, to the celebration, recalled a few years when her Dad wasn’t home for her birthday. Lipscomb retired in 2007 after 21 years in military intelligence with the U.S. Army.
“He left a lot and we missed him,” said Liah, who has three siblings. “But we were happy when he got back.”
“He always gave me an early birthday present.”
Liah was part of the Musselman High School food class that prepared the veterans lunch “from scratch.”
“We started prepping two days ago,” said Liah, who would like to have her own restaurant some day.
Musselman library media specialist Barbara Frankenberry said the celebration, which also featured a veterans forum in the school’s auditorium, is like a reality show on television without the props and big money.
The event, which has been held at the school for five years, gives students a way to make a real life connection to experiences that are usually far removed from everyday life, Frankenberry said.
Taking part in a forum panel were veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of the panelists, Lt. Col. Jan D. Lorber, said prior to the forum that she expects to serve for a couple years before retiring.
Lorber, 54, said she left a bank executive post more than 23 years ago to join the West Virginia Air National Guard and become a flight nurse because she wanted to do something different and wanted to make a difference.
“I’d do it all over again — I absolutely love it,” Lorber said.