Latrobe native boasts six decades in service to country
When Raymond and Samuel Moran of Latrobe enlisted in the peacetime Army in September 1948, they didn't realize that one of the brothers would be involved in the military for the next six decades.
Raymond Moran, the oldest of the Moran family's three sons, is the Defense Department's oldest recruiter at age 82 and longest-serving recruiter at 61 years and counting, according to the American Forces Press Service.
Moran, a retired Army sergeant major, has been a recruiter from 1951 to 1978 while on active duty and as a civilian from 1978 to 2012. Although he retired in July as a civilian recruiter at Fort George Meade near Laurel, Md., his latest retirement did not stop him from volunteering his services five days a week. The volunteer is at his desk at 6 a.m.
“I've loved every minute of it. I'll be the volunteer until they take me to Arlington,” Moran quipped, referring to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
He is so well-respected by the Army that he was one of the first inductees in 2009 of what is now the Sgt. Major Ray Moran Recruiting and Retention School Hall of Fame at Fort Jackson, S.C. In addition, he has been honored by the Association of Military Recruiters and Counselors with the Distinguished Veterans Award and the Medal of Merit.
The main key to being a good recruiter is to be a good listener and to be truthful, Moran said.
“I often tell them (prospective recruits) that basic training is very rough and you might not make it, men and women. I stress this to them. They all come back and say, ‘I made it, Sarge, I made it' and then they yell,” Moran said.
The education benefits also were a big factor, like the G.I. Bill, Moran said.
As Veterans Day approaches on Sunday, the “Old Soldier,” as he is known in the Army, says he has no intention of retiring from his volunteer post recruiting soldiers generations younger than he is to serve in the all-volunteer Army.
As has been his tradition for some 30 years, Moran will observe Veterans Day as he does Memorial Day – attending the memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery. With family members and other veterans from the Fort Meade area, he will go into Washington, D.C., to the Vietnam War Memorial and then to the Korean War Memorial, honoring fellow soldiers of the two conflicts in which he served. Moran said he then will make the short walk to the World War II Memorial, honoring that “Greatest Generation.”
How it all started
As teenagers, Ray and Sam Moran would wave goodbye to troops of that “Greatest Generation” as they marched down the street to the Latrobe railroad station, where they boarded trains for faraway destinations to fight Nazi Germany or Japan. Ray and Sam, 81, did their patriotic duty and enlisted in the Army in September 1948, while their youngest brother, Jim, now 77, followed their example a few years later and joined the Air Force.
Ray and Sam Moran both served in the Korean War. Raymond had been part of the occupation force in postwar Japan and was shipped to Korea in July 1950, less than a month after the war started. Sam had been stationed in Okinawa and then got a 30-day leave to come home before being sent to Korea as part of a mortar division, he said.
Although in different units, by sheer luck they were to meet in Korea. Ray Moran was manning a roadblock one wintry night in November 1950 when his brother drove down in a Jeep with a wounded soldier. Even though Sam was in a hurry and could not get out of his Jeep for an extended visit, Ray Moran recalled that hearing his brother's voice and talking to him just made him feel great.
By another coincidence, the Moran brothers came home the same day in July 1951 — Ray first, then Sam — and a family celebration ensued.
The recruiting begins
Sam opted for civilian life and became an electrician at the old Walworth plant in South Greensburg, while Ray started a journey as a recruiter in Pittsburgh. He was assigned to Washington County, working at the courthouse and in charge of recruitment for an Army Reserve unit, the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington and an Army National Guard unit.
He remained there for 12 years, meeting his wife, Barbara, who worked in the courthouse where he had an office. Befitting a military man, their first date was to an Army recruiting training conference in Pittsburgh and her engagement ring was his 1st Calvary Division ring. The couple, married in 1953, have three adult children and six grandchildren.
He continued his recruiting and retention duties in Germany and volunteered to go to Vietnam in 1970, where he was stationed near the Cambodian border. He was assigned the duty of finding replacements for helicopter door gunners, a job he did not find difficult because those who took the job “got out of the jungle, got a hot meal and a shower,” he said.
He adapted to recruiting for an all-volunteer Army in the 1970s, proving that the Army could succeed on an all-volunteer basis, Moran said,
“I'm proud to be part of building that. The volunteer Army proved itself in Operation Desert Storm,” said Moran, who has recruited about 1,000 soldiers into the Army during his long career. It's what Moran calls his “1,000-member brigade.”
Retired, then unretired
After Moran retired from active duty in 1978, he continued to fill the ranks of the Army with new recruits by becoming a civilian recruiter for the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion of the 1st Recruiting Brigade.
“As corny as it sounds, the young men and women are really patriotic and want to serve, and do it now, knowing the danger of war,” Moran said of the all-volunteer Army.
He was in that position when President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Desert Shield in 1990 in response to Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait. That evolved into Operation Desert Storm, the invasion of Iraq in 1991. Moran wanted to do his part and was persistent in convincing an officer at the Retired Army Branch in St. Louis, to allow him to return to active duty. He was given casualty escort duty at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
As fate would have it, Moran was on duty when the 14th Quartermaster Detachment based in Hempfield was devastated by an Iraqi SCUD missile that hit their barracks in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 25, 1991. Less than a week after they had arrived in the country, 13 members of the unit died in the missile attack.
Moran escorted the body of Spc. Stephen Siko, 24, of Unity, back home.
“It was really quite an honor,” Moran said.
On Friday, he and his wife will celebrate his 83rd birthday, with no plans to cap his recruiting career.
“I still love recruiting,” Moran said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.