Moore, now 66, said he knew an award application had been resubmitted two years ago, and that the office of U.S. Rep Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) was working on his behalf. But the application that was submitted sought a Bronze Star, so Moore was taken aback when he found out the Awards and Decorations Branch determined he had earned the Silver Star, the Army’s third highest honor.
“I was stunned. I started crying,” he said. “It brings closure to my Vietnam experience.”
On Friday — the 43rd anniversary of the day when Moore lead his platoon to regroup and secure the area after a booby trap exploded while on a search and destroy mission in the Phan Thiet area east of Saigon — a flag was flown in his honor over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. On Monday, he received the award, as well as the flag, at a half-hour ceremony before 250 people at the Joint Headquarters Building at Clay National Guard Center in Marietta.
“Captain Moore exemplified the kind of leadership and courage that many of us can only dream of,” Gingrey said. “He’s the epitome of a hero.”
Gingrey said his office got involved in trying to secure Moore’s honors after being notified of his acts by one of Moore’s colleagues in healthcare administration.
“As it turned out, when they went back and did the history of what happened and interviewed witnesses, they upgraded that medal to a Silver Star,” Gingrey said after the ceremony. “Believe you me, they went through this with a fine-toothed comb. You don’t pick these things up at the Varsity. It took several months of intense work.”
Moore, at the time a second lieutenant, was on his second six-month tour of duty in Vietnam in July 1969, leading a platoon in Company A, 3d Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky.
His commanding officer, Capt. Robert Catchings, said Moore had volunteered to have his platoon lead the way across a treacherous minefield after Catchings had been threatened with a court martial by an inexperienced battalion commander.
“Bob came up and said, we don’t want to lose you, we will volunteer to go,” Catchings, a native of Thomasville, recalled.
After following Moore’s platoon, Catchings said they crossed over several booby traps in the pitch darkness.
“I was close enough to hear the sound of the booby trap, so I was able to hit the ground,” Catchings said.
Moore lost his left kneecap during the explosion, and only recently had shrapnel removed from his right leg. Catchings said one man died in the incident, while others were wounded, including a platoon sergeant who lost both his legs.
“Bob was functioning as if nothing had happened to him,” Catchings said. “We were able to clear out the area, it was in a wooded area, for a med evac.”
Catchings said Moore was nominated for a Bronze Star shortly after the incident, but the paperwork was lost.
Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard, which hosted the ceremony, said the hostility that many Vietnam veterans received when they returned home prevented some heroes from receiving the recognition they deserved.
“Somebody had to pick up the issue, and say this deserves the recognition,” Butterworth said. “To use Calvin Coolidge’s quote, ‘A nation that forgets its defenders will soon itself be forgotten.’ We’re not forgetting, and I think that’s one of the keys.”
Moore comes from a family where military service is expected. His father, Robert Moore Sr., was pictured in a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph when he returned to Iowa from service in World War II in 1943. Moore met his wife, Lynn, in 1970 when both were serving in the military. The two have lived in the Atlanta area since 1977.
Moore, who worked his way up from private to captain after volunteering for the Army, was moved by the turnout for Monday’s ceremony. He said that when he talked to John O’Keefe, a Gingrey staffer who had helped with his paperwork, he asked if he was supposed to just go to Gingrey’s office to pick up the Silver Star.
“He said, ‘That won’t happen,’” Moore said.
Moore said he hopes today’s servicemen and women won’t have to wait as long for recognition as he did.
“I want (the public) to be more attentive to appreciating what the soldiers today are going through in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “Be as appreciative as they could humanly be for their service.”