The body of one of the three soldiers killed in last week’s rampage at Fort Hood will be returning to the Tampa Bay area Friday.
The Patriot Guard Riders motorcyle organization will conduct an honor escort Friday evening for Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, 39, who investigators say was killed April 2 by Army Spc. Ivan Lopez at the sprawling Texas Army base. Army officials say 16 others were wounded, 11 of whom have since reported back to duty. Five remain hospitalized near the base.
The riders will escort Ferguson’s remains from Tampa International Airport, where there will be a private service at 6:50 p.m., to the Lakeland Funeral Home & Memorial Gardens, said Thomas “T-Man” Brown, Florida Patriot Guard Riders assistant state captain.
There will be a private funeral Saturday morning at the Resurrection Catholic Church in Lakeland, said Brown.
The riders will then escort Ferguson to his final resting place at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, where there will be a private service later that day, Brown said.
“All bikers are welcome to ride in the procession to show our support for this hero,” Brown said in an email to riders.
Ferguson, 39, a 1993 Mulberry High School graduate who also attended Brandon High School and McLane Middle School in Brandon before that, was gunned down Wednesday at the sprawling Texas military base.
There was another victim with Bay area ties.
Army Sgt. Carlos A. Lazaney Rodriguez, 38, has relatives in Tampa who have asked for their privacy.
CNN reports that Rodriguez has a father and three brothers living in Tampa. He was originally from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens, 37 of Effington, Ill. was also killed, investigators say.
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Diane Lakner remembers how the young man she knew as Danny used to call her “mom,” used to always run to school instead of taking the bus and wanted to have a career in the military.
Ferguson “was my son’s best friend since we moved to Florida in 1988 and they were 13 years old,” says Lakner, a retired customer service worker now living in Plant City. “Danny was close enough to us that he called me Mom and attended a family reunion in another state with us.”
Ferguson entered the Army after graduating from Mulberry High School in 1993, says Lakner. Hillsborough County School Board officials confirm that a Daniel Ferguson attended Brandon High School from 1990 to 1991 and McLane Middle School before that.
Lakner said Ferguson and her son, Chase Martin, both worked at the Olive Garden restaurant in Brandon.
Martin, she says, was too badly shaken up by his old friend’s death to talk.
Ferguson was a frequent guest at their Brandon home, says Lakner, often spending the night.
“He is from a military family,” says Lakner. “He always knew he was going to go into the military.”
Ferguson “never took the bus,” says Lakner. “He always ran to school and ran home, a couple of miles. He was always fit.”
Lakner says her family was sad when Ferguson moved to Mulberry, but that her son was able to stay in touch with him because they still worked together at the Olive Garden. The family, she says, also traveled to Mulberry as well.
“We used to go see Danny play baseball at Mulberry,” Lakner says.
After graduation, the two friends lost touch, says Lakner.
Ferguson’s fiance told WTSP-TV that he died while holding a door to keep Lopez, who authorities say killed himself after shooting others, out of a locked room.
“It was really no surprise that he was a hero,” Lakner says. I don’t know why, it just fit.”
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