Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Ray Moran, who celebrates his 82nd birthday
today, talks with a prospective recruit in his office at Fort Meade,
Md. Moran is the military's oldest and longest-serving recruiter,
and his office wall documents the many soldiers he has recruited
over the past six decades. U.S. Army photo by Jonathan E. Agee
FORT MEADE, Md., Nov. 8, 2011 – Last week, retired Army Sgt. Maj.
Ray Moran visited the Baltimore Military Entrance Processing Station
here to bid goodbye and good luck to young men and women, many whom
he recruited himself, as they headed off to basic military training.
Moran's frequent visits to the station are reminiscent of his
boyhood days in Latrobe, Pa. He remembers fondly when he and his
brother, Sam, ran to the local railroad station to wave goodbye to
U.S. troops bound for combat during World War II.
inspired Moran's life-long love of the military and the men and
women who serve in uniform.
He joined their ranks as soon as
he was old enough, in 1948. It was the start of a 30-year career
that included duty in post-World War II Japan, in Korea during the
Korean Conflict, in Vietnam, and after volunteering to return to
active duty after his retirement, during Operation Desert Storm.
Today, as he celebrates his 82nd birthday, Moran
continues to make his mark on the military as its oldest and
longest-serving recruiter. Over the past 60 years, he
figures he has enlisted more than 1,000 soldiers, and he
continues to sign on more every day.
Moran, still widely known by the moniker he picked up in
Vietnam, “Old Soldier,” is like reading chapters out of a
He remembers being too young to enlist
during World War II, but making a point with his brother to
give a proper send-off to combat-bound troops marching down
his street to the local train station every Tuesday. “We
were always there,” he said.
Looking at his long list
of duties after he enlisted in the Army, it's clear that
Moran was, in fact, always where the action was.
Shortly after his basic training at Camp Breckenridge, Ky.,
he found himself helping keep the peace in post-World War II
Tokyo. When war broke out in Korea, he deployed there on
July 17, 1950, with the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd
Battalion, 7th Cavalry.
Moran recalls moving with his
unit into North Korea, all thinking the war was almost over
when news broke that China had entered the conflict. “The
Chinese had joined the North Koreans in the war and were
pushing back our troops,” he said.
Moran was among
the troops charged with retrieving the bodies of more than
800 of their fellow soldiers killed during an attack near
North Korea's Yalu River. Some, their hands tied behind
their backs with barbed wire, had been shot in the head.
The experience was a far cry from the triumphant
Armistice Day parade Moran had expected to be a part of in
Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur had personally
selected his unit to return from Korea to parade through
downtown Tokyo. “The problem was, there were so many mines
in the bay in Korea that the Navy couldn't come in to get
us,” Moran said.
Instead, he remained in Korea,
where, time and time again, he enjoyed chance encounters
with his brother. Moran remembered setting up and manning
roadblocks one blustery night in November 1950 when Sam
drove through, transporting wounded troops.
night, I'd been freezing until I heard his voice,” Moran
recalled. “But after that, I stayed warm all night long.”
Serendipity struck again when both Moran boys returned
home from the war hours apart on July 10, 1951.
Members of the local VFW and American Legion – many of them
the same World War II troops they had bid farewell to at the
railroad station -- descended on their home to make them
“They kind of motivated us,” Moran
Moran was so motivated, in fact, that he
decided to reenlist and continue his military service that
ultimately lasted three decades.
It was the start of
his recruiting career that included some of the toughest
assignments ever: recruiting for other recruiters in
Vietnam, and recruiting the first members of the
Looking back, Moran said he's
proud of what he helped create. “We built a volunteer Army
that really proved itself in Desert Storm,” he said. “They
were just a marvelous bunch of soldiers, and they have done
it right through to Iraq and Afghanistan today. We are very
proud of the all-volunteer Army.”
Even after hanging
up his uniform in 1978, Moran has remained an integral part
of that force as a civilian Army Reserve recruiter here at
U.S. Army Recruiting Command's 1st Recruiting Brigade.
He had only one brief hiatus from that duty when, after
three phone calls to the Army retired branch in St. Louis,
Mo., he convinced the right person to recall him to active
duty during Operation Desert Storm.
Moran, who was 60
years old at the time, served casualty escort duty at the
mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del. “It was what the Army
needed me to do, so that's what I did,” he said.
recalled the sad duty of escorting the remains of 28 members
of the Army Reserve's 14th Quartermaster Detachment
soldiers, some from his hometown, killed by an Iraqi Scud
missile attack on Feb. 25, 1991.
struck the United States on 9/11, 70-year-old Moran again
volunteered to return to military duty, but the Army drew
“I got really upset when the Army said no,”
he said. “They told me that at my age, they were only
accepting doctors [from the retirement rolls].”
consolation, he said, was knowing he could continue to serve
the military he loves by recruiting good-quality, dedicated
forces to fill its ranks.
Recruiting runs in Moran's
blood. He admits that back during his first recruiting stint
in Pennsylvania, he took his future wife, Barbara, on their
first date to a one-day recruiting training conference in
Moran bonds with potential recruits
easily, with his big, easy smile and encouraging manner. One
needs to spend only a few hours with him to realize that he
has friends of all ages nearly everywhere he goes.
He's become a fixture in and around Fort Meade and within
the recruiting community. A Fort Meade street now bears his
name. He was honored in late 2008 as one of the first two
inductees into the Army's Recruiting and Retention Hall of
Fame at Fort Jackson, S.C. Even the name of that honor
recognizes Moran's legendary status; it's known as the Sgt.
Maj. Ray Moran “Old Soldier” Hall of Fame.
marvels that he now finds himself recruiting children, and
even the grandchildren, of the veterans he enlisted --
including his own grandson.
“Recruiting is easy when
you love something, and I happen to love the military. So
talking about it is an easy task for me,” he said. “Everyone
in the service is red, white and blue to me.”
said he recognizes that military service isn't for everyone,
and takes pains not to “sugar-coat” the military experience
to the men and women he talks with.
“I know we have
tough times and we make sacrifices and there are hardships.
I'm not getting away from that,” he said. “But I will tell
you this: there are a lot of rewards. And the biggest reward
in the world is just having the camaraderie and respect that
you get from your fellow soldiers.”
are smart, he said, and know what they are signing on for
and what they want to do in the military. “So I am sort of a
locomotive, to take them where they want to go,” he said.
“It's pretty wonderful.”
Despite the vast changes
he's witnessed, Moran finds that the same values continue to
attract people to the armed services. “I just think it's
personal pride, and I really think it is patriotism and love
of country,” he said. “I see that in their faces every day.”
Moran recognizes that cuts in budgets and recruiting
billets are likely to force him into a second retirement,
probably early next year. “It wasn't my time to retire, in
my book, but Uncle Sam needs it to happen, so we are going
to salute and say, ‘We'll do it,'” he said.
perpetual ear-to-ear smile faded only slightly as he
acknowledged what seems to be inevitable.
back over his career, Moran said he has just one regret: he
offered his father a handshake rather than a hug when he
left home more than six decades ago to join the Army. It's a
transgression he apologized for when he returned home, and
that his father assured him he'd more than made up for with
a belated bear hug as he returned home.
grateful,” Moran said of his career, regaining his
infectious enthusiasm. “I look back and say, there's no
reason in the world not to be so happy that everything
turned out the way it has,” with a devoted wife and family
and rewarding career.
“The work I have done has been
so meaningful to me, and I have made so many friends along
the way,” he said. “So when I look back, I just have too
much to be grateful and thankful for to even think any other
This Veterans Day, Moran will express that
gratitude through a tradition he shares with his family and
their closest friends. They'll travel to Washington to
attend a full day of ceremonies, beginning at the Tomb of
the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery, then at the
Vietnam Memorial Wall and, finally, at the Korean War and
World War II memorials.
Moran said he takes pride
knowing he has recruited and served with some of the “finest
people in the world” who took part in those conflicts and
continue to serve in the military.
“I've had a
challenging career and loved every minute of it, and I would
do it all again,” he said. “And it all stems from veterans.
They were the ones that inspired me when I was a young man,
and continue to do so to this day.”
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
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