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Marine shares plans for peaceful life

Tyler County Booster

By Valerie Reddell

Coming home is complicated for combat veterans. Local Marine Tom Moran believes that although he completed his enlistment with the Marines years ago, he is just now finally, completely home. And this year on Veterans Day, Moran wants to dedicate his Purple Hearts to his family — especially his mother, Ruth Moran, who he believes endured more painful wounds during his deployments. But let's start at the beginning of this veteran's story. When terrorists attacked the United States in 2001, Tom Moran was a student at Woodville High School. He desperately wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps at 17, but his mother would not give her permission. He graduated in 2003 and about seven months later he was fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. "On the first day, we earned a Combat Action Ribbon," Moran said. "That was the most intense deployment in 2004." Moran believes that first deployment took a toll on his mother. "We were on the news at that time — there were some intense firefights," he said. "When I got home I looked like I had been in a concentration camp." In 2005, Moran found himself in the Philippines on a search and rescue mission following the tragic mudslides. "The whole village got buried," Moran said. "There was nothing we could do … it was too wet to dig out." He added that while the mission in the Phillipines did not have combat hazards, there were dangers posed by the weather. "It was one of the best missions we ever had. That village was grateful. Even though we weren't able to save people, we were able to serve those people," he added. "We won hearts and minds there," Moran said. Moran returned to Fallujah after volunteering to be on a security detail for Lt. General Larry Nicholson, who was a Colonel at that time. "He had just been wounded two months earlier," Moran recalled. He was eager to get back out in the field. He is an old school Marine. He had a huge scar on his neck. Nicholson was injured just hours after assuming command. A rocket propelled grenade struck Camp Fallujah on Sept. 14, 2004, fatally wounding his communications officer and sending shrapnel into the Colonel's body. "I volunteered to go to Fallujah — but I lied to my mother. I told her I had a desk job and I wouldn't be going outside the wire," Moran said. Moran likely believed this deployment would go smoother since he wouldn't be on foot patrol, like his first stint there. "It was all vehicle patrols with the colonel," he added. "We had the new armored Humvees. I volunteered to be the lead vehicle, it doesn't get hit a lot." The first time Moran was injured, the Marine Corps didn't contact his parents. "They gave me two weeks to recover, but I was begging to go back out there," he said. He gave his mother creative explanations for where he was and what he was doing during that recuperation leave. The second time he couldn't hide it. There was a big explosion and his vehicle was hit on Jan. 4, 2007. The impact knocked him out "for a quick second," he said. He was taken to the medic tent. A new policy had taken effect and his mother got a call immediately. Few details were available, so she imagined the worst. "When I came home, we had a good discussion," Moran said. "I think she took it harder than I did." Moran believes those wounds make her more qualified for a Purple Heart. "I just want to send that message to my mom. I'm usually uncomfortable being thanked." Moran has pangs of survivor's guilt when discussing those commendations. "I have friends who have missing legs, missing arms, or they got shot. My gunner had to have brain surgery," he said. "The vehicle was bad." After finishing his hitch with the Marines, Moran found readjusting to civilian life difficult. He spent the next three or four years soul searching. "I left home and there were times when my parents didn't know where I was. I was just gone," he added. "I finally came home," Moran said in a way that only combat veterans can express. "I'm one of the few that are blessed. I'm one of the few to have this second chance." Coming back from a purely combat arms unit is challenging, he added. "You have to reinvent yourself." Moran credits his parents and a new and improved Veteran's Administration for helping him find his way home. "My mother and father have been there supporting me, even during my low points. They dealt with the residue. There are people who don't have that support." Originally, Moran planned to transition into a career in law enforcement. He earned a bachelor's degree in Sociology but decided that the near-combat situations police officers face is not for him. In January, Moran will enroll in the Conrad Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston for a master's degree. The positive environment in the hospitality industry attracted Moran, as did Hilton's support of the military. The company has pledged to hire another 20,000 veterans by the end of 2020, after reaching their initial goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and spouses two years early. Company founder Conrad Hilton serve in the U.S. Army in World War I. "I can finally say I have a whole new perspective," Moran said. "I hope that I can do this and give back. I want to volunteer to help other veterans find their way through the after-effects. Surviving the deployment is one this, but surviving the after-effects is just as difficult." For Moran, the transition seems to be complete. Welcome home, civilian.

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