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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Charles Moore

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Charlie Moore's Photos

Charles Wyatt Moore

Charles Wyatt Moore enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 31, 2007, at the age of 19. He was assigned to 18 QM Company at Fort Bragg, NC (his first duty station) and later to Echo Company 3-4 AVN at Fort Hood, TX (his second duty station). He served during the OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) Conflicts and was deployed to Shindand, Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged on Oct 29, 2011, with the rank of E-4. He received The NATO Afghanistan Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 2 stars, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Charlie Moore's Story - Part One, Reflections by his Mother

When my son, Charlie, signed up to serve at a high school recruitment event in 2007, I had so many mixed emotions. I felt proud and happy but also scared and worried. This history is of my memories about his life. When reflecting back over the years, there have been so many happy times, and I am always proud of him. But then again, quoting from a Townes Van Zandt song “… to live is to fly, both low and high …”

Charles Wyatt Moore, my youngest son—third of four children—was born in Nashville, TN, on July 18, 1988. By the time Charlie was born, I was much more relaxed as a mother and had the best time with him as a baby. When he learned to talk, he was always full of questions about everything. He was so curious and playful. He had a little ukulele, and he would bang on it and make up funny songs. He was always friendly with everyone, and I had to warn him many times about talking to strangers. He used to tell people he was going to be Garth Brooks when he grew up; that was a pretty cute thing to say. Once we went to an outdoor concert at the town courthouse. I think he was about four or five years old, and he actually started break-dancing! He was on the ground twirling around on his back and hopping up with some cool moves. I didn’t even know he knew how to do this. I guess he saw someone else in the crowd and began imitating them. Before long there was a group of spectators circling around him and cheering him on. I could tell he liked the attention as he ran around high-fiving everyone. 

I began homeschooling my children when Luke and Rachel, the two oldest, started first grade. My youngest child, Carly, was still a baby. We all had a lot of learning adventures! Alphabet recipes were a favorite activity…A for applesauce, B for biscuits, etc. Charlie also loved food and would ask me every night when I tucked him in bed what we were going to eat the next day. I think those homeschooling years were our best years. I loved watching the children learn and learning myself about ways to teach them new things, too. But after a couple of years I had to help out with our family’s income and take a waitress job. At the same time, I also started college part-time. So that was the end of homeschooling and the beginning of public school. Charlie’s dad, Ray, worked as a self-employed barber and would sometimes take the boys to work so they could make a little pocket money shoe-shining. I don’t think they ever mastered this skill, but customers thought they were cute and would leave them tips. 

Life was good, these memories were high, but then there were the lows. Ray was raised by an alcoholic father and as I have come to learn, this is a hereditary disease in the Moore family. I became an enabler and tried to hide the sickness from my children. My stepson, Donovan, came to live with us after he completed his time in the Marines. He was much older than my children, and he liked drinking with his dad. This went on for a while, but eventually things got out of hand, and our family broke up when Charlie was in the first grade. Since all this happened in the middle of the school year, my parents took Charlie and Carly to live with them in Virginia. My mom was an elementary school teacher so they finished out the school year at their grandma’s school. I stayed in Tennessee with Luke and Rachel and tried to reestablish myself as a single parent. I missed having us all together, but I was busy with college classes and waiting tables at a Nashville brewery. The kids had to have a babysitter at night and I wasn’t able to read bedtime stories any more. It was exhausting for me, and I’m sure it was traumatic for them. When our divorce was settled, a joint custody arrangement was made so that Luke and Rachel would live with their dad, Charlie and Carly would live with me, and every other weekend each parent would take turns with all four. Sometimes we still did things all together as a family.

When I finally graduated from college with a teaching degree, I had remarried and was reunited with all four children. Ray wanted to move to Texas to be near his parents. Charlie had a new step-father, and I was still working all the time. Most of the time my work hours were the same as the children’s school hours. I spent late nights grading papers and lesson planning after fixing supper and helping everyone with their homework. On weekends and during the summer, I kept my waitress job. I don’t know how I survived, just living on auto-pilot all the time, and regretfully not always giving my children enough attention. They were older and didn’t need babysitting anymore, but I think the bond with their step-father never quite developed, and there were a lot of fights. Several times they flew to Texas and once took a Greyhound to see their father. They had a stewardess as their travel chaperone on airplanes and when traveling by bus Charlie’s older brother and sister were in charge. It was very nerve-wracking to send them off like that.

By this time, I was a junior high language arts teacher and since we lived in a rural area outside Nashville, the school was small and I taught all the seventh and eighth graders. During this time, Charlie was one of my students. He couldn’t get away with anything, and sometimes the other boys would try to get a reaction out of him so I would have to call him out. Generally, Charlie was very mild-mannered, but one day he had had enough. First I noticed Charlie had an angry look on his face, then I saw the boy behind Charlie tapping his ear with a pencil. Next thing, both boys were out of their seats, face-to-face and Charlie was saying, “I dare you to do that again!” I had to intervene and send both my son and the other boy to the office with a behavior slip. I knew it wasn't his fault, but I couldn't treat him any differently than other students. I’m sure he felt humiliated, and it broke my heart.  

In high school Charlie played defense for the East Robertson Indians football team. I felt so proud to cheer for him from the stands, but even though I knew he was tough, I was afraid he would be hurt. Around Christmas time during his freshman year, things fell apart in my second marriage. I knew their home environment was not what I wanted for my children. Luke was newly married and living in Arkansas, and Rachel was beginning college and had moved out on her own. While Charlie and Carly were in Texas to visit for the holidays, I called Ray with a heavy heart to see if he wanted keep them for the rest of that school year. My plan was to finish the teaching year, and then move to Texas too so we could all live closer together and make co-parenting easier.  Charlie had just gotten his football letter jacket and had a girlfriend. I knew it was hard on him to leave his Tennessee friends behind. Once he started at his new school in Texas, he made the football team again, this time playing for the Grand Saline Indians. 

That summer, I was ready to leave Tennessee but hated to leave Rachel. Ray had a loft apartment above the barbershop, and I was going to stay there until I became reestablished. I was even thinking of living halfway between Arkansas and Texas. Luke and his wife had just become young parents, and I wanted to be near them and my new grandson. Then I got a job teaching at a middle school in Texas, and before long our family was reunited. I married Ray again and our family had a fresh start. There were track meets with Carly and Friday nights at football games cheering for Charlie. It was good to know that Charlie and Carly had made the transition smoothly and everything was beginning to feel normal again. Still, looking back on those days, life really was like a roller coaster. Knowing what I know now, and the way things were then, I could have made so many better choices. 

At this point in the memories I am going to include Charlie and his thoughts as we reflect together on his service time. 

Charlie Moore's Story - Part Two - Reflections with his Mother

Revisiting Charlie’s service time ten years ago was hard for both of us. He doesn’t like to talk about his problems and feelings. Following his time in Afghanistan, he struggled to adjust to civilian life, and during this period he was assaulted more than once by gangs on the streets of Dallas, TX. He says many memories were blocked or lost due to head injuries.

It wasn’t long after Charlie’s military discharge that I moved to North Carolina to take a job as Ashe County Librarian.  I would see Charlie on visits to Texas, but we never really had talks about his time as a soldier in the Army. These reunions were short and irregular, separating us by time and distance. This veteran history project gave me a chance to understand what he went through and helped us reconnect after years apart.

When 9/11 happened, Charlie was in the seventh grade. This event was one of the main reasons he decided to join the military and defend the United States. His paternal grandfather was a career serviceman in the Air Force following WWII, his dad served in the Army during the Vietnam Era, and his half-brother was a Marine during Desert Storm. Patriotism was instilled in him, and after high school his alternative to college was joining the military. He wanted to be ‘Army Strong’.

We talked about the night he was picked up at our house by his recruiter to report for basic training.  It was dark out and late, maybe 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. I remember Charlie was on the computer Facebooking his friends when all at once his ride pulled into our driveway. He left so quickly that I don’t remember much of a goodbye. I remember the car’s taillights as it drove off down our dark road and a lonely feeling settled on me. 

Charlie reflects:

After riding through the night I arrived in Houston, flying from there to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I remember being nervous about basic training but looked forward to the experience and proving to myself that I could do it. Our drill sergeant spent most of the time yelling and cussing at us. Dad said when he was in the Army they could ‘put a boot in your butt’ to get you in line. It took discipline to hold back anger while being yelled at like this. The work was hard but did get us all in shape. One guy from Philly (an ex-gang member) thought he was hot shit and could whip the drill sergeant. He was wrong. He got a discharge for disorderly conduct.

It was the greatest feeling to see Charlie at his basic training graduation. Ray and I rode from Texas, with anticipation and excitement, to see our son. My parents traveled from Virginia to meet us. We were so full of pride watching him march onto the field with his unit. After the ceremony we spent the weekend with Charlie before he had to leave for his permanent duty station. I remember my dad saying to Charlie, “You’re going to be having a big adventure.” When he prayed for God to keep Charlie safe, I had to hold back tears. This time saying goodbye, I remember long hugs as we left him to board a bus headed for Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The drive home was endless and quiet.

Fort Bragg was my first actual unit after training. I was part of the 18th Airborne Corps,7th Battalion, 18 QM Company.  This was a transportation and water purification unit, often referred to as the “bitch unit,” because we had to do all the BS detail work. Jobs like working in the motor pool, area beautification, setting up for change of command ceremonies, etc. We also continued daily physical training exercises. All-in-all, so far the job wasn’t too bad. The worst part of military life was lack of privacy, but you do develop a strong camaraderie with your fellow soldiers. Even though you might fight and pick on each other sometimes, you’d still be buddies when it was all said and done. During off-time I was busy doing my own thing: watching TV, going to the gym, going to the bar. I didn’t miss home so much.

Back home I remember news reports about the war in Afghanistan. The Nancy Grace Show would run a weekly tally on the number of soldier fatalities. Once there was a local soldier who died in battle and folks lined the streets through town to wave flags and show respect as a military escort brought his body back home in a hearse.  

Later, Charlie was transferred to Fort Hood, Texas. We knew the time would soon come when his unit would deploy for an overseas assignment. It was good to have him closer to home and easier to visit him too. He became close to a girl from home during this time, and I could tell he was going to miss her a lot when he had to deploy. 

At Fort Hood I was part of logistics operations and worked in the motor pool. Sometimes I was assigned to airfield identification duty to check cars coming in and out. One day we all had to leave where we were working and return to our company area for lockdown. This was on November 5, 2009. An Army Major, who turned out to be an undercover terrorist, had opened fire on a group of soldiers who were getting ready for deployment. We had to stay in lockdown until after 8:00 that night.

On November 5, I was working at a library in Mineola, TX, when I started getting calls from folks asking if Charlie was all right. That’s when I turned on the news and heard about the shooting at Fort Hood. Finally, I was able to reach him by telephone and hear that he was okay. That day was hard, thinking of the unexpected danger at home and worrying about him leaving for Afghanistan soon. 

Charlie was able to come home for Christmas and spend a few weeks of R&R with us. That year all four of our kids were home, and we made some good holiday memories. When he had to report back, Carly and I took him to the airport. Goodbyes were getting harder and harder.

The year Charlie spent in Afghanistan we tried to stay in touch through mail and phone calls. I remember helping him with his tax return over the phone; that was sort of stressful. I made him an afghan in Army colors and sent care packages with video games and beef jerky. He sent a lot of surprises to his girlfriend through the mail. I remember once she came over to show us the flowers he had ordered for her. I couldn’t help feeling a little jealous about that.

Time in Afghanistan is mostly a blur to me. I remember how hot and dry it was and learning to look out for camel spiders. They are speedy, can jump, and have a painful bite. I spent time going out on QRF (Quick Reaction Force) detail. This is where we'd circle the base perimeter, continuously, for twelve hour security shifts. Other times I felt like I spent a lot of time just sitting around like a knot on a log. There was one friend I had that got drunk one night after his girl back home broke up with him. He climbed on top of the barracks and was talking about jumping. We had to call the MPs to get him back down. I understood his feelings better when I later learned that my girlfriend had married another guy. Several years later, I heard that my friend had hung himself in the barracks while stationed in Korea (RIP).

In thinking back about the war in Afghanistan, I feel like my generation was brainwashed to join the military by right wing conservatives so we could go over and fight for their oil. It was an unworthy cause considering the loss of American lives. No doubt Bin Laden was bad and we had to take him out, but I really relate to Eminem’s protest rap song “Mosh.”  It is time to bring the troops home … “No more blood for oil, we got our own battles To fight on our own soil, no more psychological warfare To trick us to thinkin’ we ain’t loyal …”

Ray and I were the only ones who made it to Fort Hood for Charlie’s homecoming. My heart was about to burst when I saw him marching into the gymnasium for the welcome home ceremony.  When we were allowed on the floor to be with him I couldn’t wait to hug him. We drove to San Antonio and got a real fancy hotel on the River Walk that night. The next day we walked around to see the Alamo and other sights. Charlie had received free passes to SeaWorld and wanted to spend the day there before we headed back home.  It was so good to have him back with us. Later he flew north to see his grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins. My sister planned a special family homecoming party for him. Everybody thanked God for his safe return. We love him so much and if you can't tell by reading this, I am a proud mama! 

I was relieved to be back home, but not sure about what to do next. I spent a lot of time at my cousin’s house hanging out with him, playing video games. For a time, I wandered around Dallas, stayed with Carly and her husband some. Basically homeless. Coming home was hard. Since serving I have worked a series of different jobs: Plaskolite Factory, Aramark Food Services, Salvation Army, Omni Hotel’s Restaurant Texas Spice, Epi Bread Company, and a Whiskey Distillery. Currently I am employed in Fort Worth with a nonprofit, raising funds to help veterans. The future of this work is uncertain with the outbreak of COVID-19.   

In wrapping up Charlie’s story, I know it isn’t over and there’s no telling what will come next. I know God has a plan for his future and is looking out for him. He is still as funny and good-natured as he was growing up but is more reserved now. At times he struggles with PTSD. It is hard not being able to see Charlie as often as I would like. And the words of Townes Van Zandt’s song still remind us both that “To live is to fly … low  and high, So shake the dust off of your wings … And the sleep out of your eyes.”