Summit County vet pays tribute on Memorial Day to those who made the ultimate sacrifice
A tattered, green scrapbook tells the story of an abundance of postwar experiences for Roman Moore, and he’s uniquely aware that countless peers either never returned home or didn’t have the chance at creating such fond memories.
The collection holds a faded color photo with the 1960 Chevy Impala he painted himself as a teen, news clippings from publications of the past following his time on active duty, and an array of ticket stubs and backstage passes to see nearly every major rock ‘n’ roll act that came through the state over the past three decades. It also includes a few black-and-white pictures of the Colorado Springs native after he chose to enlist in the U.S. Navy rather than be drafted into the Army once he graduated from high school in 1971.
Moore believed a maritime assignment might save him from what ended up being the tail end of the Vietnam War, but he ultimately wound up there anyway aboard the USS Sacramento combat support ship. A year later when he came home from conflict abroad for good in ‘73, he quickly tried to turn the page on his military career through internships and the assistance of the GI Bill to pursue one as a radio DJ.
“For the longest time after I got out of the Navy, I didn’t want to let anybody know I was in the military because of the perceptions people had against Vietnam veterans,” said Moore. “I didn’t even put it on a résumé, I didn’t tell people. I didn’t want people to kind of look at me with that ‘raised eyebrow’ look.”
One of the more politicized wars in the nation’s history soured public sentiment during that time on those who went into battle at the command of the country’s leadership. When he first landed back on American soil at Seattle’s airport, Moore recalled a woman approaching him with her young daughter and spitting in his face. He said he was never a passionate supporter of the Vietnam War and soon jettisoned his uniform to avoid such interactions while fully transitioning into civilian life.
As Moore pinballed from one radio station to the next while making his way in the new profession, notions of Vietnam began to change over time and he realized that although he had escaped significant emotional damage from the war, many others weren’t so lucky. He started to understand that his service to his comrades was in fact not complete, and Moore began to embrace the chance to help those he came across who otherwise didn’t know how to help themselves.
“Running across other veterans that had issues, I thought, ‘I can’t just push this off to the side anymore,’ and I wanted to try and reach out to others,” he said. “There were people who I would meet that I felt like they were just happy to talk to me once they found out my background. It was like it was a load off their shoulders, because they’d been carrying around stuff they felt like they couldn’t talk to anyone about.”
Today, after eventually finding his way to Summit County in November 2006 for a radio gig and then another one after that, the 63-year-old Dillon resident has become a primary sounding board for fellow vets in the hope of offering aid with ailments like post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide. His salt-and-pepper hair and the permanent lines on his face might give away his age, but his piercing blue eyes have not dimmed, nor has his enthusiasm for lending a hand to anyone else who has been hardened by their time in the armed forces.
“Roman has just been a great leader and a great rock for those who have served in the military,” said County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, a longtime friend. “He would literally take the shirt off his back for a veteran. He works hard to help fill in the gaps in our community for the folks who really struggle.”
On Monday morning, Moore will also apply his broadcast skills for ninth time as the emcee of the annual Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony at Dillon Cemetery. Since he started in the voluntary role, the celebration of those who made the greatest of sacrifices for their country — while in war just the same as through mental scars subsequent to their return — has grown from a trickle of attendees to more than a couple hundred.
The smell of diesel fuel and occasional war flick that he comes across still reminds Moore of his tenure on the Naval boat where in Vietnam some members of the ship’s crew lost their lives so he could keep his. He said his service is both a badge of honor, as well as a burden he’s proud to bear, to try and provide a resource for others so they can overcome the personal obstacles they might face.
“I feel very fortunate and very blessed, because I’ve kind of been a survivor all my life,” said Moore. “And maybe the hardest thing for somebody that really might need some help to do is to reach out. That’s important, because life is short. So I want to help other people survive — and not just to exist, but to live.”
Roman Moore invites any military veteran seeking support or assistance to reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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