Sarah Moore marked her son’s Harvey Jr.’s birthday on Oct. 26 in a way she’s not able to do every year.
She went to the site of his memorial in Salt Lake City on what will likely be her last trip there.
Had he lived, Master Sgt. Harvey L. Moore Jr. would have been 57 this year. But the U.S. Army Ranger was killed three days after his 37th birthday in a training accident in Utah.
On the 20th anniversary of the incident, which claimed 11 other soldiers, a grassroots effort came together to honor Moore and the others, four fellow rangers and seven Air Force commandos.
Sarah Moore, Harvey Moore Jr.’s sister Terry Moore Cook, and other family members went to the ceremonies, which included a motorcycle ride, reception and memorial service. They went early, specifically to visit the memorial site on his birthday.
“I felt like I was on hallowed ground,” Cook said.
‘It would have changed the course of history’
Harvey Moore Jr. died when the helicopter he was in crashed – whether into a bridge or into the Great Salt Lake remains unclear – in inclement weather.
The mission he was training for, in the months after Desert Storm kicked Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, was to go to to Bagdhad and capture Sadaam Hussein.
Cook said several of the helicopters that were to take part in the mission already had aborted because of the weather, which had included thunder snow, sleet and high winds the night before.
“It’s not the kind of weather they would have had in Baghdad, but they went ahead anyway,” she said.”It probably could have been postponed.”
With fewer helicopters taking part, Harvey Moore actually had to talk his way on to one of the helicopters that still was going. Witnesses said they saw the helicopter take off, then there was a ball of fire before the crash.
It’s hard for his family to think about recent events, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Hussein’s eventual capture, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cook says hearing of the dictator’s capture was more like an afterthought to her, after what her family gave up for the cause.
“If his mission had been successful, it would have changed the course of history,” she said. “The mission was for the greater good at the time.”
But Cook knows if her brother had a choice he would have died exactly like he did, with his fellow Rangers.
Harvey Moore Jr. graduated from Troup High School in 1973 and joined the Army after attending LaGrange College for two years. He was in the service for 14 years, and had made it his career.
“He couldn’t see himself sitting behind a desk being an accountant the rest of his life,” Sarah Moore says.
Indeed, it seemed by all accounts Moore was born to be a Ranger.
His list of awards, medals and commendations is long and includes the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal and other honors, along with the Ranger Tab.
In 1985, Moore won the annual David E. Grange Jr. United States Army Best Ranger competition. He would have likely won in 1986, too, but his partner had to leave the competition for a family emergency. He came in second with the lowered score.
“If there was a challenge, he wanted to do it,” says Cook. “He set the bar high for others, but he met it first.”
Outside his military life, he was simply Harvey, well-liked by friends and loved by family, with a smile on his face and a dip of Copenhagen. On his first day back from deployment to Panama, he ran a marathon in Pine Mountain.
In fact, his family really didn’t know what all he did in the service – and how dangerous it was – until after his death.
“Whenever we would ask, he would just say he was ‘playing Army,’” Cook said.
Ranger Hall of Fame
Sarah Moore was visiting the office of Dr. Gary Solt one day when he recognized her name. Solt, a former Army Ranger himself, asked if she was related to Harvey Moore Jr.
“I said, ‘You remember him?’ Sarah Moore said. Solt told her every Ranger remembers Harvey Moore Jr.
Harvey Moore Jr. is in the Ranger Hall of Fame and his name is on the Fort Benning Ranger Walk. In November 1995, a training field was dedicated in his name at Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah. A memorial garden is named for him at Fort Benning and his dress uniform and beret are displayed at the Darby Ranger Museum at Fort Smith, Ark.
Harvey Moore, Sr. still can see the two Army Rangers pull up to the house to inform him of his son’s death like it happened yesterday.
“It’s something a parent never gets over,” he said. “I see the stars and stripes and I think, he’s one of those stars. It’s the price we paid to our country. Until it happens to you, you can’t understand the high cost of freedom.”
Sarah Moore and her husband, Harvey Senior, have been invited to numerous events honoring their son and to ceremonies and promotions honoring fellow soldiers who were friends and colleagues of Moore’s. They have attended many.
“Once you’re in the Ranger family, you’re always in the Ranger family,” Sarah Moore said.
The Gallant Few
The events to mark the 20th anniversary of the incident weren’t sponsored by the military, but by that Ranger family. Specifically, The Gallant Few.
The Gallant Few is an organization that helps military veterans adjust to life outside the military once they are discharged. The suicide rate for veterans rivals the death rate of active service members, Cox said.
Veteran Danny “Doc” Cox rode his bicycle from the Pat Tillman Memorial in Phoenix to the memorial in Salt Lake City. Cox was a medic during Moore’s training mission and Karl Monger, director of Gallant Few, was in a support airplane that day.
“They knew the Rangers killed on a personal level,” Cook said.
The Divine Sisterhood of Sparta held a reception on Friday night for all the families attending. The sisterhood is made up of Ranger moms that support Rangers in and coming out of the service.
An Eagle Scout candidate in Salt Lake City recently took on revamping the memorial at the crash site at Antelope Park as his project, so the ceremony was a culmination of Cox’s ride and the scout’s efforts. The Patriot Guard was there to escort the families to the site.
“I think about my brother’s funeral and all the people who were there,” Cook said. “We didn’t need a patriot guard then. It was a different time.”
“Rangers lead the way”
The year after her brother died, Annette Boyd broke her own rules for the Sweet Land of Liberty Parade, held every Fourth of July. The rules say no one under 18 can participate, it’s supposed to be an event for children. But the “parade lady” put Moore’s family front and center, carrying a banner that said “Rangers lead the way,” the motto of the Army Rangers.
It’s the epitaph on Moore’s tombstone.