As the squeaking screen door closed, a young Hal Moore turned over in bed. It was a sound he heard every morning at five minutes until six for as long as he could remember. His father was leaving the house to go to mass as he did every day. He would return at 6:30 to have breakfast with the family before going to work at the insurance business.
Like his father, Hal would find a relationship with God that would carry him through his life. He roamed the forest adjoining his home, hunting rabbits and squirrels, and cooking freshly caught sunfish on a flat rock. In the silence of this sanctuary, with rustling branches softly whispering in towering trees, Hal would find a strong faith and begin a spiritual journey.
The third of four children, Hal faced a decision upon high school graduation — pursue West Point or become a priest or monk like the ones he admired at the Abbey of Gethsemani near his home in Bardstown, Ky. As he spent time at the Abbey growing up, he had developed a love for humanity.
His decision to attend West Point led him on a path to become one of the world’s greatest generals, whose leadership and ideals have been recorded in books as well as his story portrayed for millions in the movie, “We Were Soldiers.”
At West Point, the monk within Hal worshipped an hour daily at the chapel and in prayer at home. At a young age, in the quietness of these moments, the promises of the Bible were grasped and keys to abundant life realized.
On his knees with the veil of “seek and you shall find” pulled back, Hal discovered the powerful knowledge that with faith, God would stand by him in battle and life. With God beside him, he would never give up or accept defeat. Hal would never allow the thought of failing to enter his mind. With “do not fear” echoing in his head, the warrior never feared and remained calm under fire.
Hal’s life was filled with harmony and a sense of balance. The other side of the soldier’s life was his love for Julie.
Hal and Julie met when he was stationed at Fort Bragg, where he tested parachutes for the Army. Julie attended the University of North Carolina while her parents lived at Fort Bragg, where her father served in the military.
One summer while visiting her folks, Julie saw Hal by a pool. She walked up to him and introduced herself. At that moment she saw something unique in him and pursued him. He fell for her instantly, and the soul mates married a couple years later in 1949.
While Hal was away serving his country, Julie often visited her parents who had moved to Auburn in 1952. She found the family home restful as she waited for her husband’s return.
The house later became the Moore’s family residence. Julie loved opera, but would fill every room of the house with Hal’s country music when it was time for him to come home. When Hal opened the door, he would call over the music, “Julie, I’m home.” These words, along with others lifted from Hal’s writings, have become a country love song, written by Dean Dillon and Teddy Gentry.
In January 2004, Julie was diagnosed with a fast-growing cancer. She became concerned for her beloved husband. Shortly before she passed away in April 2004, she approached their friend, known as Driver, to take care of her Hal.
Julie and Hal were married 54 years. Their five children and 13 grandchildren have settled in various places across the country, but Hal remains in the home where he and Julie shared happy moments.
Wherever Hal goes, his humble, trustworthy friend Driver is nearby, absorbing the general’s words and recording them for future generations. Driver’s wife prepares special meals for him in the evenings.
Driver and the three-star general have co-authored two books, A General’s Spiritual Journey and A Tender Warrior. Both were written as non-profit. Other books are in the works.
A General’s Spiritual Journey was sent to 160,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who were unable to come home the past two holiday seasons. Hundreds of e-mails from soldiers overseas express they keep the small book under their pillow, in their backpack and take it with them to church.
The book has captivated the hearts of soldiers who found the publication in their care packages sent by Operation Gratitude.
Hal wrote five leadership letters to America that were given as speeches in 2008-2009. These five leadership letters have been assembled into the book A Tender Warrior, published by Tender Truths.
At 89 years of age, Hal is still invited to select events around the country. A few weeks ago, he attended the St. Louis Cardinals spring camp in West Palm Beach, where Tony LaRussa and Hal discussed leadership. In the locker room Hal talked about the primary theme of his leadership lesson “three strikes and you are not out.” Failure is still not in his vocabulary.
In March, Hal joined in the private global leadership roundtable in Vail, Colo., and told the global leaders—once more, three strikes and you’re not out.
When Hal travels to events, his presence is highly revered, and there is an air of respect. The hero’s impact on others leaves them wondering what is different about him.
At his Auburn home, tucked behind tall bushes, calls come from around the country from people who want to fly to Auburn just to shake Hal’s hand or to have him autograph a book or a bookmark printed with his leadership lessons.
Corporate leaders, athletes and celebrities from across the country are involved in “team Hal Moore.” This team is working to assure his legacy lives and his life-changing message is sustained long after he is gone.
“From that turning point in Vietnam in 1965, I knew then that I wanted to continue living for a better America,” says the general. “My beliefs became my roadmap for living.”
The general loved and still loves his men. He keeps a stack of index cards with a list of those who died under him and their families. He still prays for them every day in his rocking chair at home, at church and in visits to their respective graves at Ft. Benning.
His message of courage and honor is spoken to students and senior citizens, encouraging them to get out and make a difference.
A strong believer in honor, the hero is concerned about the lack of honor in our youth. Honor has been an important aspect of his life. He desires to be of service to youth in America by helping them learn leadership through learning honor.
Two years ago the Hal Moore Youth Leadership National Academy of Honor and Camp Hal Moore began in the Auburn City Schools System. The mission of the Academy is to educate, equip and empower youth with the knowledge, training and skills necessary to cultivate academics and leadership. Patterning its teaching based on Hal’s highest ideals, the Academy promotes honor and service.
Hal and the Auburn City School youth from the academy have been selected as the feature story and cover of the May 2011 issue of American Profile Magazine, reaching 10.4 million homes in its Memorial Day issue.
Last August, a new wing at Auburn High School was named The Julie and Hal Moore Center of Excellence for the Performing Arts. It is part of the school and the city’s center for the performing arts, and houses Julie’s piano. The lobby displays scenes from the Moores’ life and is a tribute to a general who still makes a difference in people’s lives.
In 2008 Armchair General Magazine named Hal as one of the top 100 greatest military generals in the history of the world. Editor-in-chief, Dr. Jerry Morelock, states, “Hal Moore was an automatic selection. He had it all, as he embodies virtually every leadership quality. His courage and commitment are unmatched.”
The American hero stepped into destiny with his faith and high ideals, which have withstood time and the ravages of war. The famous battle at Ia Drang was only the beginning. The three-star general continues to influence others and is honored and recognized more and more as a national treasure.
In his later years, Hal is often heard speaking to God as he once did as a boy in the Kentucky woods.
“I have believed all of my life that each of us is on a spiritual journey,” says Hal. “From boyhood to now, I have been and am still on a spiritual journey where God has clearly chosen my path.”