March 28, 2003
Vignettes of War:
Sgt. Rickey Moore
The Moores of Port Orange were one such family. Sgt. Rickey Moore, a reservist with the 265th Air Defense Artillery, based in Daytona Beach, had about a week to prepare himself and his family for his year-long deployment. Moore, a corrections officer at the juvenile detention center in Daytona Beach, has been with the guard for about eight years. He and his wife, Theresa, have a 5-month-old son, Timothy, and he also has a 5-year-old son, Rickey Jr., who has been staying with them in the days before his deployment.
In preparation for the March 18th deployment, Moore worked 12-hour days at the National Guard armory. His long hours cut into his family time, but the armory also was a place where families gathered.
One night, representatives of the Red Cross, insurance companies, and the National Guard briefed families about how their lives were about to change. As Rickey and Theresa sat through the meeting, Rickey held Timothy on his lap. The baby gently held onto his dad´s fingers.
The following night, the Moores joined other guard families at a barbecue at the armory. Spouses, children and others filed one by one through the secure sign-in area and out to an open makeshift dining hall. A large bay door let in the glowing light of the setting sun, and people relaxed and mingled. The soldiers introduced their families to fellow regiment members. Moore escorted Rickey Jr., 5, around the facility while he waited for Theresa and Timothy to arrive.
Rickey Jr. seemed in awe of the military equipment. He stopped to ask his dad to show him how to salute. Moore demonstrated the mechanics of a proper military salute. But he also told him: “You don´t have to be a soldier if you don´t want to. You can be anything you want.” Moore said he´s proud his son wants to follow in his footsteps, but he wants him to be open to other opportunities so that he may not have to face the sacrifices of war in his future.
The soldiers in Moore´s company were given leave the weekend before their March 18 deployment to be with their families. The Moores spent much of Saturday resting from a busy week.
Sunday was a special family day. The Moores got up early to prepare for church services. With the fear, uncertainty, and separation of war looming ahead of them, they looked to their faith to carry them through. On this morning, they took a bit more time getting ready because they were also planning to sit for a family portrait after the service.
During the service at the Word of Faith Community Church they were surprised when the Rev. Steve Ingram called them to the front of the church. The pastor and others surrounded the couple, laying their hands on them in an intense moment of prayer. Church members rose to their feet and prayed aloud along with Ingram as the church came alive with love and support for Rickey and Theresa.
After the service the Moores went to the mall to have formal family portraits taken. Back at home, Rickey put Timothy down for a nap and went into the living room to catch up on war coverage on a 24 hour news station. The reality was beginning to set in for the family as they tried not to think about what lay ahead.
Monday, the last day before his deployment, Rickey arrived home from the armory about 4:30 p.m. and helped Rickey Jr. with his homework. The youngster has to work on his vocabulary as he is preparing for the transition from kindergarten to first grade. Theresa rested with Timothy in the bedroom. As dinner time approached, Theresa, who was planning to cook a special meal, asked Rickey what he´d like for his last dinner at home for a while. “Junk food” was the answer. He wanted wings and went to pick them up from the Daytona Ale House. During the trip to the restaurant he talked about how he feels about what´s to come.
“I am worried about my wife and the kids, how they´re going to get along without me,” he said. “I thought I would be more nervous.”
He said he hoped the war would be quick. “I did airport security for 2 1/2 months after September 11th. That is the most I have been away,” he said.
With the fast food on the table, the family´s dinner began with a blessing by Rickey Jr. But by this time, Theresa was begging to withdraw and became distant. The gravity of their situation was becoming too much for her. After dinner, the usually smiling and vibrant woman sat alone at the table as her husband and Rickey Jr. cleaned up the kitchen.
After Rickey Jr.´s bath, Moore turned on the TV at 8 p.m. and listened to President Bush´s address giving Iraq a 48 hour deadline. The guardsman said he´s is concerned about Rickey Jr. “He knows I am going to be gone long, but he doesn´t understand I am going into a war situation. He asks how long I´m going to be gone. He seems to think I´m going on a long drill.”
With less than 12 hours left with his family, Moore sat quietly alone in the living room for a few minutes as news anchors analyzed the President´s ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. But he had something more important to do. He got Rickey Jr. and read him bedtime stories. Bible stories. Then Rickey Jr. climbed the ladder to his bunk bed, and his dad gave him a hug and kiss before “lights out.” Moore headed to his room for some quiet time with his wife and the baby.
The next morning, deployment day, Rickey Jr. sat next to his father on the couch, watching him lace up his combat boots. After packing his own bag, Moore packed the diaper bag and warmed a bottle for the baby. Soon the family was out the door and headed to the armory.
For a couple of hours, the 400 or so soldiers of the unit prepared for departure and spent time with their loved ones. Rickey Jr. played basketball with other boys and amused himself like scores of other children at the armory too young to understand the concept of war. Theresa wheeled Timothy around in his stroller. Families clustered together. Everyone passed the time, mostly quietly.
Finally, the time came for Moore to stand in formation with his regiment and load the gear onto six big white buses. The soldiers were then given a few more minutes to spend with their families and boarded the busses at 10 a.m.
The short bus ride to Daytona Beach International Airport, with their families following behind in cars, took much longer and was filled with more emotion than the soldiers expected.
Moore and the others were surprised to see the streets lined with supporters holding signs, waving flags, and giving ‘thumbs-up’ to them as they passed. Some of the supporters smiled. Some were in tears. But all the soldiers seemed to fill with hope to see such an outpouring of support for them from the community.
At the airport, members of the 265th marched in formation to a large hangar for the deployment ceremony. Theresa and hundreds of other family members, loved-ones and well-wishers, strained to pick out their soldiers. High ranking officers and other dignitaries made speeches offering words of support, patriotism and encouragement to the troops and their families.
Rickey Jr. didn´t hear them. He sat on the concrete floor, holding his American flag, looking through the rows of camouflage and boots searching for his father.
After the ceremony, the moment of truth arrived. Rickey gathered his family to him. Theresa quietly recited a Bible verse to her husband. Tears streamed briefly from their eyes and he joined his formation. On the tarmac, Theresa held Timothy and watched her husband march to the waiting 747 that would take him and his unit to Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas. After Texas, all they know is that the unit will be sent wherever it´s needed for the war effort.
Theresa said she has mixed emotions about the situation. “In a way I´m proud. But I´m ticked off at the same time. I´ll find out what it is like to be a single mom.”
Quietly, she pushed the stroller back to her car for the long, lonely trip home.