Not just another day off
It is with pride in their son Steven’s accomplishments during the Afghani war, relief that he is now home, and sorrow that so many other parents’ children didn’t return from the war, that George and Anita Moore want to remind people of the meaning of Memorial Day.
“I just don’t want people to forget what Memorial Day is about,” Anita Moore said. “It is a day off for a lot of people and that is great, but I think we need to remember what Memorial Day is about. There are a lot of soldiers who have served our country and have come back in caskets.”
She said that Steven, now living in California, served as a sergeant in the National Guard. He left for Afghanistan on Aug. 3, 2010. After spending almost a year in country, his welcome home ceremony was July 18, 2011.
Anita Moore said that on the home front it is a constant worry for the family that their soldier is serving in harm’s way. She said deployment is “hell and back.” The family did a lot of praying that Steven would remain safe. She said that the last thing she thought of before going to sleep and the first thing she thought of when she woke was her son. The few communications that she shared with Steven while he was deployed were “like gold,” she said. She said communications were limited to e-mail and brief phone calls.
George Moore said that not a moment in the day goes by without the concern of a phone call or a soldier appearing at your door. He said there were times when a car turned around in his driveway that he was convinced it was a soldier coming to give bad news.
“If a soldier comes to your door, you know things are very bad,” he said.
During Steven’s deployment, George and Anita Moore served on the family readiness support group. He said they were on a calling tree that had been formed as a secondary notification of a soldier being injured or worse. Both said the readiness group had been very helpful in the time leading up to Steven’s deployment and while he was gone. The Moores said they learned as early as October 2009 that Steven was going to be deployed.
“That was a great thing for us to do, but when you do that and you make your phone calls, you are so relieved that it is not your soldier, but your heart is breaking because someone’s loved one is dead.”
In a list that Anita Moore had compiled, she honored some of the soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. She said Steven had known one of them. One of the soldiers, Anita Moore said, had been scheduled to come home after one last mission. The others were from Iowa.
“All of those guys are someone’s family members,” she said. “I just don’t want people to forget there are soldiers who don’t come back. We’ll be watching something on TV or talking about maybe a wounded warrior and we think, ‘that could have been Steven.’”
George Moore said with a son in the war, the parents’ perspective or what is important changes. He said that he is thankful Steven had come home and had not been injured. He said there were instances Steven had told him about involving being involved in combat.
“That kind of thing is your worst fear,” he said. “When you don’t know, your worst fear is things like that are going on.”
Anita Moore said that both she and Steven had done everything they could to keep the other from worrying. She said that Steven hadn’t told them until he arrived home that he was in a situation in which he had been exposed to gunfire on a daily basis.
During the deployment the Moores trued to keep their daily routine the same. As they tried to keep business as usual, they couldn’t help but think of their soldier and constantly wondering what was happening. Anita Moore said that getting four or five hours of sleep was a “good night.” George Moore said that in some ways keeping busy kept the couple going.
“I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to be retired and not be able to go to work and do things all day lone,” he said.
When they finally learned for sure Steven was coming home, he was already stateside. George Moore explained this is for the security of the troops overseas, to keep the enemy from learning of troop movements. They had heard rumors about units moving around, but didn’t know anything for sure.
Steven has since gotten married and moved to San Francisco, Calif. Both he and his wife are English majors in college and Steven is pursuing the goal of becoming a writer. Both also have day jobs. George Moore said that Steven loves San Francisco and has had some short stories published.
On Memorial Day, the Moores say they will have to work. Still, they plan to find time to go to the All-Veterans Memorial on Lexington Boulevard to show their respects to soldiers past and present.
“A lot of times we’ll go to the cemetery where my father who was in World War II is buried,” George Moore said. “It is awesome to see all the flags. A lot of towns do it, not just here. Freedom isn’t free and we need to remember the sacrifices made.”