ROCKY MOUNT — The wait is over, and hope is rekindled for the family of Carlos “Buddy” Edward Ferguson.
With his remains recently identified, Ferguson is no longer a missing-in-action Korean War veteran, and his family members have renewed their hopes for the identification of his younger brother, Bobby, who remains an MIA Korean War veteran.
Joann Ferguson Hodges is Ferguson’s only surviving sibling.
“It’s good, but it’s heartbreaking,” Hodges said. She lost her two sisters within the last year. “I just didn’t think it’d ever get to be.”
Wheels were put into motion almost two years ago when Ferguson’s niece, Bobbie Jo Hodges-Lamb, reconnected with former teaching colleague, Brittany Spencer Rumsby, through Facebook. Rumsby made a comment about Memorial Day.
In Hodges-Lamb’s response to the post, she talked about her uncles who were MIA Korean War veterans. It wasn’t long until Rumsby’s husband, Rob, messaged Hodges-Lamb about his desire to help the family with starting the identification process.
The next step was to work with John Zimmerlee, executive director of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs. In February, Ferguson’s remains from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii were identified.
Last Thursday, his flag-draped casket arrived with military dignity at the Piedmont Triad Airport in Greensboro, N.C., and was driven to Rocky Mount.
A memorial service with more than 50 in attendance was held Saturday morning — one day shy of what would have been his 89th birthday — at Living Waters Assembly of God Church in Rocky Mount. Interment followed at McElhenney Church Cemetery in Alderson, W.Va. with more than 100 relatives, friends and honor guard members present.
The graveside service was led by Ferguson’s cousin Pastor Billy Ferguson and was conducted with military honors including a 21-gun salute. The Patriot Guard Riders served at both services.
Ferguson was born in Alderson, W.Va., on May 19, 1930, the oldest of six children. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, Aug. 30, 1948, and was listed as MIA on May 18, 1951, one day short of his 21st birthday.
Pastor Roger Jones of Living Waters Assembly of God Church and Lee Flora of Flora Funeral Service and Cremation Center both said it was their first experience with an MIA veteran’s service and that they felt it was a real honor to be of service.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Spencer of the Casualty Assistance Center at Fort Lee served the family from the time the family received the documents regarding the identification of Ferguson’s remains. The family expressed their appreciation for Spencer’s help. During her remarks at the morning service, Hodges-Lamb referred to Spencer by saying, “He’s our new family member.”
Brittany Brown of Martinsville, a great-niece to Ferguson, said Saturday’s events felt “surreal.”
“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Brown said. “My nannie, his baby sister, wished for this for as long as I could remember and it was finally happening. My nannie’s wish came true. Although I wish she was here so I could watch her experience it, she got the better view at his side. A true hero’s homecoming.”
Hodges-Lamb described the mood of the day to be humbling, exciting and electrifying. She said that although she was burning up from the West Virginia heat she had cold chills. She added that the memory of the amount of respect shown to her family will be with her for the rest of her life.
She encourages families of MIA veterans to not give up hope. “There are tons of people waiting to hear. You think you’re alone, but you’re not.
“What started out as a hope and a prayer came to be. It’s amazing.”
Leigh Prom is a contributor to The Franklin News-Post.