Julie Moore lived every aspect of military family life, starting with her birth in an Army hospital at Fort Sill in 1929. As the daughter of a career soldier, she would experience the worried absence of her father during his WW2 deployment that included being torpedoed on a troopship en route to France. Married into the Infantry, she managed the home front during her husband’s participation in two brutal wars. Finally, she would experience a mother’s anxiety with sons on active duty during the invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, and Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts.
In 1996, she summarized the pressure and stress in a letter describing her experience during Vietnam.
“It all boiled down to me being a ‘single mother’ of five children, totally responsible for their health and welfare while being scared to death for the safety of my husband. Every day I wondered whether I would be next to get the telegram. “
Captain Hal Moore and Julie married in 1949 and began a shared military journey that would see them displace 28 times to 10 states and two countries over the next 32 years. Given the impossibility of a separate career, Julie threw herself into volunteer work supporting the community. Like her husband, Julie loved soldiers. While Hal focused his effort on training his troops to prevail in combat’s harsh reality, Julie focused on their families.
Being a firm believer in the adage “bloom where you are planted,” she served as a Red Cross volunteer working in Army hospitals and dental clinics. Recognizing the military’s unique pressures on raising a family, she paid particular attention to daycare centers’ operations. She worked tirelessly to ensure they received the proper attention and support from the chain of command. Julie used her service as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader and a Cub Scout Den mother as an opportunity to connect directly with families and detect emerging issues.
Julie recognized the critical role of the Wives Clubs in each assignment. As depicted in the movie, We Were Soldiers, she leveraged the structure of Wives Clubs to organize spouses for mutual support. At every assignment, she leveraged this group to reach out to new wives to ease their transition from civilian life into the broader military family. To this end, her work was a precursor to the Army Community Service organization that is now a permanent fixture on all Army posts to assist soldiers as they process into a new duty station.
All this came to a head when the unit deployed to Vietnam. In a heartless brutal decision, the Army gave the families 30 days to move off post and into civilian housing. 438 families scrambled as they searched for housing in the local area. The family moved into a house so small that Julie had to set up a cot each night for their youngest son to sleep on. To Julie, this was a flashback to the Korean War when Hal deployed from Fort Benning in 1952. Left with two babies, one barely six weeks old, Julie relocated into tract housing in Columbus, eventually moving in with her parents in nearby Auburn, AL.
Neither Fort Benning nor the Army was prepared for what was about to happen. With the Ia Drang campaign, the war suddenly changed. The Army was overwhelmed by hundreds of death notices for unsuspecting families. It had forgotten how to do this right and handed the telegrams to taxi drivers. The drivers delivered the notices of combat deaths to wives and families, typically isolated in small apartments, trailer parks, and one-room walk-ups. Horrified by this callous decision, Julie demanded to know which women would get telegrams. Julie challenged and eventually stopped the Army’s practice. In the meantime, she drove after each taxi, following the driver to the door, ensuring nobody received the terrible news alone. Assuming the responsibility of her position as a commander’s wife, she comforted each family and attended every local funeral of every soldier lost in combat in her husband’s command. Pressed by this example, the Army instituted the policy of delivering notices by uniformed personnel. These practices became standard throughout the military.
Not unusual or unique, COL Bishop captured her typical impact on any assignment writing about her time at Fort Ord.
“Mrs. Moore participated in numerous community activities enthusiastically, giving unselfishly of her time and talents to make the installation a better place to live and work. She served as an active volunteer of the Army Community Service welcome committee. Her helpful attitude towards all newly arrived personnel made each feel that he or she was someone special. Mrs. Moore participated in the ACS Advisory and Fund Council, Officers’ Wives Club, Noncommissioned Officers’ Wives Club, the Fort Ord Thrift Shop, and the Nursery Advisory Council, honorary president of the Officers Wives Club and NCO Wives Club. She also participated in many civic activities in the local community, including active membership in the Symphony Guild of the Monterey Peninsula. In all of these many activities, she devoted sincere time, effort, knowledge and guidance, and direction. Her personal charm and poise complemented her flair for truly exemplifying the spirit of human awareness.”