Staff Sgt. Adrian Gonzales, a drill sergeant with 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, selects masks for his family. Staff Sgt. Chris Waggoner and Family members Rebecca, Jerry and Sarah made these masks available for the community. (Photo by Ron Lester)
By Veran Hill Fort Jackson Public Affairs
Fort Jackson housing residents have come together in many ways during the pandemic. One group came together to purchase fresh produce, while another Fort Jackson Family is helping in a completely different way - sewing and providing free face masks.
Rebecca “Becky” Waggoner and two of her children, 6-year-old son Jerry and 4-year-old daughter Sarah use their extra time at home to make cloth masks for her spouse’s unit and those living in on-post housing.
Becky “really helped the battalion, as well as the larger Fort Jackson community, by selflessly providing much-needed personal protective equipment when it was most needed,” said Lt. Col. Anthony L. Forshier, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment commander.
Becky’s sewing duties began when her husband Staff Sgt. Christopher Waggoner, a drill sergeant with the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, asked her to make a cooler mask for him.
“After everyone was told to wear a mask, my husband thought the neck gaiters were too hot,” Waggoner said. “I began making cloth masks for my husband, his unit, and the kids.”
Cpt. Tyler J. Creasman, commander of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment said he was grateful for what the Waggoner Family is doing.
“When the COVID-19 protective measures were put in place, it was inspiring, but not the least bit surprising that Mrs. Waggoner made masks to protect her husband's colleagues,” Creasman said. “Our cadre were ahead of the game as early adopters of face masks, and we are very grateful for the effort.”
All Fort Jackson personnel are required to wear a face covering upon entering all on-post public facilities and when unable to practice six feet of social distancing in a non-public facilities.
Military personnel may wear cloth face masks as long as they are black, brown, white, OCP pattern or ACU pattern, if medical face masks are not available to be worn.
The Waggoner’s created face coverings that could be worn while in military uniform and reversible when in civilian attire.
“The reversible patterns are a phenomenal touch,” Creasman said. “I unashamedly rock the Captain America side of my face mask when I visit the Commissary in civilian clothes.”
What started from making 20 mask for her husband’s unit has turned into making over 100 hand-crafted masks (when time permits) for neighbors and anyone driving by their house who’s in need of a face covering.
“I just kept making them and made extra,” Becky said. “I didn’t know how to get them out to people, so I hung them up and put out a sign so people could come and just grab them,”
The Waggoner’s two children are key to making the face covering, Jerry pins and along with Sarah flips the mask inside-out, while Becky does the sewing at night when they’re asleep.
Becky, who has a nursing degree said, “If you wear a mask, it helps to prevent the spread of the virus.”
To stop the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Defense and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the wearing of face covering when entering public settings where social distancing measures cannot be maintained.