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    Keepsakes of an Old Soldier

    The Old Soldier

    Photo By Master Sgt. Michel Sauret | Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran (Ret.), affectionately known as the "Old Soldier,"...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret  

    200th Military Police Command

    ODENTON, Md. — Raymond Moran has a basement full of history.

    He earned the nickname “Old Soldier” in his early 30s while serving in Vietnam. At the time, he would call others “Ol’ Soldier” when he forgot their names, but being older than most of his troops, the good-natured nickname stuck back on him.

    Now, at the age of 88, a life of service unfolds as Moran gingerly makes his way down the basement steps.

    He pauses midway to point out a glass-encased “Moran” street sign. “They named a street at Fort Meade after me, too, right there,” he says.

    Below, it’s a walk through history. Sixty-five years of total service; the equivalent of three military careers. Thirty years on active duty and another 35 years as a civilian recruiter for the Army Reserve.

    The basement is like a private museum. Pictures, plaques, trophies, statues, banners, posters, flags, awards, books, newspaper clippings are hung and displayed everywhere, creating a virtual time capsule that dates back to the Korean War.

    Moran served as an infantryman and recruiter, living and serving all over the world: Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Germany. “I loved it. Enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “It was just an honor for me to serve. And I have all of this as a result of it.”

    “All of this” – more than plaques and pictures displayed on the walls of a basement, more than newspaper articles overflowing from multiple binders – “all of this” was a lifetime’s worth of reminders of lives touched by this career Soldier, recruiter, mentor and friend.


    Perhaps most impactful was his role as a recruiter – both in the military and as civilian working for the Army Reserve. Moran enlisted so many men and women that the U.S. Army Recruiting Command named its Hall of Fame after him. In 2017, he received a Lifetime Service Award. Yet Moran is so low-key that he decided to host the ceremony at a local barbecue joint.

    Moran rose to the rank of sergeant major, responsible for hundreds of recruiters across multiple states as senior enlisted noncommissioned officer of the First Recruiting Brigade on Fort Meade. When he retired, Moran essentially started over, accepting an entry-level “GS-7” civilian position. And he loved it. He recruited for the Army Reserve, but also referred plenty of active duty recruits to his colleagues, helping them meet their recruiting goals.

    “Recruiting is something close to my heart. I have a lot of pride in the Army Reserve, so encouraging them to join was an easy job for me,” he said.

    “He genuinely is that kind of person. Positive. Upbeat. I hope to someday love anything as much as that man loves the Army and (his wife) Barbi,” said Sgt. Maj. Luther Legg, former recruiting command sergeant major and a long-time friend.


    Near a bar, a genuine M1 rifle is on display, returned from Korea decades after the war – a Veterans Day gift from his eldest son, Ray. It’s the same model rifle he carried in combat when the Old Soldier was a young infantryman.

    Moran proudly points to a nearby photo of a young Soldier. Not him, but his grandson, Christopher. Moran recruited him, and he went on to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007-2008.

    “And of course he got pinned with a (Combat Infantry Badge), and he was so proud because the first thing he wanted to show me was his CIB,” said Moran.

    It’s a common bond. Because there, hanging on the wall, was the oversized replica of the CIB he himself earned in Korea – a ribbon given specifically to infantrymen who engage in combat.

    When the Korean War first broke out, Moran was a corporal serving in Japan on peacekeeping occupation duty. The war brought him to the Korean peninsula. When he returned home to his parents in Latrobe, he was a 21-year-old master sergeant. He’d been promoted four ranks in one year.

    “That (badge) was pinned on me by my battalion commander in the Korean War … We were in mud up to our ankles in combat boots, and he told everyone, ‘Unbutton your top button on your field jacket. And then he came and pinned our CIB on … That day, it must have been at least 100 (of us). We were all lined up from one end to the other in a parade field. That was the only time we ever got together,” said Moran.

    Even when times were the most tough, Moran found a way to stay positive. He was known for his constant smile and infectious positive attitude, said his son Ray, recalling another nickname his father earned.

    “Dad used to tell a story when I was a kid that they were digging ditches or something in Korea, and Dad was whistling,” he said. “The captain came over and said, ‘You’re morale-builder Moran.’ Everybody called him Smiley Moran after that.”

    A few memories from that time frame stand out: seeing his brother in Korea on several chance encounters, and coming home to hug his father. Yet, not every story is offered as easily as his smile, nor found framed inside a picture. Some stories surface over the years in the most unexpected ways.

    Years ago, his son Ray accompanied him to receive an award in Texas and a young sergeant major came up to him and said, “Hey! You’re Smiley Moran, aren’t you? … My dad says you saved his life.”

    That was a story his son had never heard, and even when asked about it now, he treats it as if it was no big thing.

    “I just patched him up. Did the best I could, the way they teach you in the Army,” he said. And that was it. He wouldn’t linger any longer or brag about saving another man’s life.


    When the Gulf War broke out, Moran was 61 and had been retired for 21 years, but he convinced the Army to allow him back to duty in uniform.

    “You’ve got to help me put my uniform together. I’ve never worn these,” he told Ray, holding up a camouflage-patterned “battle dress” uniform.

    “He was in the old, starched, OG-107 green Vietnam uniforms from that era,” said Ray, who was an Army Reserve Soldier himself at the time. “So he’d never worn battle dress until he got recalled for Desert Storm.”

    Moran served stateside as a casualty escort sergeant major, a job with a heavy toll. One of his most difficult tasks was taking wedding rings off the bodies of Soldiers after a scud missile attack killed 13 from an Army Reserve unit in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Moran had recruited Soldiers into that unit, located less than 10 miles from his hometown of Latrobe.

    “The age cutoff was 63, and he was just a few months shy,” Ray added. “He volunteered again later at age 74 when Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off. The Army sent him a very nice, ‘Thanks, but not this time,’ letter.”


    Through it all, he has maintained the wholehearted support of his family. In fact, the entire display covering the walls was a labor of love, with every memory having been hung by his wife, who’d gained a decade of experience working at the museum on Fort Meade.

    “I never put one nail on the wall,” said Moran.

    The couple has been married 65 years, celebrating their wedding anniversary at home on Valentine’s Day. He, Barbara, and their three children, Ray, Rich, and Robbi – grown into parents and some into grandparents by now – had lived in so many places during Moran’s time on active duty, but one town in particular is still a point of pride for the Old Soldier: Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

    If anyone mentions Latrobe, Moran is quick to mention Arnold Palmer, the famed golfer whose smiling, autographed picture is featured in his basement. Palmer and Moran were high school friends, along with Fred Rogers, who was one year ahead of them.

    “He never had any tattoos underneath his sweater,” Moran said of Mister Rogers, dispelling the popular rumor.

    It’s hard to imagine Raymond Moran as a combat-fierce infantryman, not because of his age, but because of his gentleness.

    He is an encourager, often saying to friends and family, “Good job. I’m real proud of you,” over the littlest things.

    “Good job, Barbara, you remembered your medicine. You do such a great job,” he says for example.

    “That was real nice of you. You take such good care of me,” he tells his sons and daughter repeatedly as they take turns visiting him on weekends.

    Or, “Oh you’re right on time. I’m real proud of you,” he tells a visitor on their way out the door together.

    When visitors leave his home, Moran stands at the front door waving a little American flag and salutes them goodbye.

    “He’s always positive. He’s always upbeat,” said Legg. “At first you think, ‘He’s a recruiter and he’s been a recruiter for years and years and years, so he’s taught to be that way because he wants to be positive around people when talking to them about joining the Army.’ But then you realize that he’s just like that. There’s no one left for him to convince to join the Army,”

    A few miles from their home, Moran still has an office at an Army Reserve center. He doesn’t go there often, but like his basement, the walls of that office are plastered with reminders: autographed portraits of sergeants major and generals, coffee mugs from all corners of the Army, a rack full of challenge coins, pictures, banners, trophies, even the Korean flag draping from one corner of the room.

    Nowadays, he spends most of his days at home with Barbara, whom he calls his “wonderful Army wife.” On the rare occasions he makes his way to Fort Meade, he’s treated like a local celebrity. Soldiers at the gate recognize him and many stop him to take a picture together.

    At home, a nurse visits daily to take care of Barbara and checks both of their temperatures and blood pressure in the morning while they eat breakfast.

    After she reads his vitals, Moran asked, “Is that good?”

    “That’s very good. You’re strong and healthy.”

    “Good,” he responded. “I guess I’ll re-enlist, then.”



    Date Taken: 12.21.2018
    Date Posted: 12.24.2018 08:40
    Story ID: 305022
    Location: ODENTON, MD, US 
    Hometown: LATROBE, PA, US

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