SFC Danny Ferguson started working in my office in Heidelberg, Germany sometime in late 2006 or early 2007. He was very quiet and reserved when he first arrived but one day I started talking to him and to my surprise, he mentioned that he liked to watch soccer. At the time we lived on the Hauptstrasse in the heart of Heidelberg's historic downtown area and my favorite pastime was watching soccer and rugby at the Dubliner, our local Irish pub. I told Danny that he was welcome to join us anytime and he came down that weekend. Back then, the X Man (Xavier) was our only kid and he would always accompany me to the pub and would spend the time playing with the people who worked at the pub. Well, he and Danny hit it off from the first minute they met. Xavier had trouble saying "Ferguson" so he called him "Fergusi". I didn't realize it at the time but a special friendship was started that day.
Fergusi came down again the next weekend and I told him he was welcome to come over later for dinner if he wanted to, as my wife is an amazing cook and she loves having people over to try her cooking. He did and we learned one of his little peccadilloes that night - he hated vegetables. I mean, he hated vegetables. The only vegetable he would eat were potatoes and only if they were sliced and deep fried. Every time we were at the Dubliner, he would order a burger but he would get the lettuce, tomato and pickle on the side and Virginia would eat them (Xavier was and is a pickle fiend).
In the following weeks Fergusi became a regular with us at the Dubliner and became a fixture in our home. He and the X Man became instant buddies and he would often spend the whole day playing with him. He loved Virginia's cooking (who doesn't?); he loved to buy fresh salmon filets and shrimp from the Nordsee across the street and have Virginia cook it for him. He quickly became a part of our family.
The X Man and Fergusi, best buddies.
At work, me, Fergusi and our friend Ramsey were the Three Musketeers. Every day we would eat lunch together at the dining facility and then spend the rest of the lunch hour walking around base talking about every and anything you could imagine. Looking back, those walks were so special but at the time, it was just three good friends hanging out.
Fergusi was a gym rat. A HUGE gym rat. His arms were massive. I had a blood pressure scare and was forced to buy a home blood pressure machine to keep track of it and one time he was at the house and said "Yo, let's see what my blood pressure is". I put the strap on him but his arm was so freaking big that the velcro kept coming apart. His arms were actually too big for the machine! At work we used to make fun of him constantly because he was hopelessly addicted to junk food. He had one entire drawer at his desk that was nothing but junk food and candy and he drank Mountain Dew and Yoo Hoo like he owned stock in them. I asked him one time how he can be a gym rat and yet eat and drink so much junk and he said "Why do you think I work out so much? So I CAN eat and drink all this junk!"
In May of 2008, Luca was born. Fergusi took to him immediately. Whenever he was at the house he insisted on bottle feeding him. We did a hail and farewell for work one time on a boat tour of the Neckar River; Fergusi spent the entire time holding Luca, feeding him, burping him, etc. Fergusi had a young daughter in the US from a previous marriage who he always talked about and Virginia and I could tell that he loved holding and feeding Luca and playing with Xavier so much because it reminded him of his daughter Ashley. You could see the love on his face whenever he talked about her. He was so good with my kids too, just a natural with them. We always had trouble getting Xavier to eat his food but Fergusi did this thing where he'd say "Xavier, it's a race between you and me to see who finishes first" and Xavier would always respond by eating as fast as he could. He just always knew which buttons to press with the X Man.
Xavier, Fergusi and Luca.
Fergusi could always get Xavier to eat fast by challenging him to a race
In the fall of 2008 we moved back to Italy. We had a huge going away party at the Dubliner with all our friends and coworkers. It was such a fun night but what I remember most was that Fergusi held six month old Luca all night so Virginia and I could enjoy the festivities.
Our going away bash at the Dubliner: Fergusi assigned himself baby duty.
A year or so after we moved back to Italy, Fergusi and Monty, another one of our best friends, came down to visit for a few days. Xavier was as excited as I've ever seen him. We all had so much fun that weekend - Monty and I enjoyed exploring the local food while Fergusi spent the entire weekend playing with Xavier, like we had never left. It was just like old times. When the weekend was over and it came time for Monty and Fergusi to leave, Xavier grabbed onto Fergusi's leg and refused to let go. It was such a sweet moment and I'm glad I was to capture a photo of it. Eventually Fergusi picked him up, hugged him tight and said he'd see him again soon. Little did we know it would never happen.
Just like old times: enjoying Virginia's cooking
The boys (minus Ramsey), back together again
Xavier and Fergusi goofing around on the piazza, just like always.
The last time we saw Fergusi alive; Xavier refused to let him go. It was almost as if he knew he'd never see him again.
Eventually Fergusi PCS'd to Fort Hood, Texas. There, he deployed to Afghanistan for another tour and he met the love of his life, a beautiful girl (from Massachusetts! Go Sox!) named Kristen who he ended up proposing to. He was scheduled to PCS to Hawaii where he and Kristen would be married. He was happier than I'd ever seen him. His life was practically perfect.
And then, in a moment of madness it was taken from him. From all of us:
That day will forever be ingrained in my memory. The Ft Hood shooting was all over the news so I called Kristen to see if her and Fergusi were ok and then all I remember is dropping the phone, wrapping my arms around Virginia and crying like I've never cried before. I had to pick up Xavier at his bus stop and I couldn't hold back the tears. He kept asking me why I was crying and I told him I'd explain it when we got home. When we did, I tried to explain what had happened - how do you explain such a thing to a 10 year old? My heart broke as the tears started rolling down Xavier's little cheeks. I told him Fergusi will always live in his heart. When he finally stopped crying, he told me he would never forget his best friend Fergusi. And he never has.
A couple years ago we were finally blessed to be able to meet Kristen in person when she was visiting her aunt Jean in Columbia. It was easy to see why Fergusi fell in love with her, she is such a beautiful person inside and out. I cannot even imagine how hard everything has been on her but she has handled the tragedy with such strength, just as Fergusi would have wanted. She will always be part of our family, just as Fergusi was.
Meeting Kristen was an emotional day for us.
There are so many things that I want to tell him but I'll never get the chance. I hate that Xavier and Luca will never get to see him again and I hate that he never had the chance to meet Max, who he would have loved. I hate that I'll never get to tease him about his junk food addiction again. If I close my eyes and listen, I can almost hear him saying "What up, Yo!" like he always used to do. He was one of our best friends. We'll never forget him.
We miss you so much Fergusi.