How a Military Base’s New Name Honors a Military Spouse and Mother
6 min read
3 weeks ago
Dana Abella and her husband, John, have moved 11 times and gone through four deployments. They have three children.
Maj. Bernard Wheeler delayed a deployment several days to see his daughter’s birth in 2018. When he returned, it took her months to get used to his presence.
Alexandria Lyles has experienced five deployments and six moves. Her younger sister, Juliana, has been through four deployments and four moves.
For the first time last week, a military base was named in honor of a spouse, recognizing the full experience of military families.
Fort Benning is now officially Fort Moore, the only U.S. base named for a married couple.
Photographs and Text by Arin Yoon
Arin Yoon, a photographer and military spouse, has documented the military community for more than 10 years. She reported from Fort Moore, Ga.
Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore commanded troops in the first major battle of the Vietnam War, a role depicted in a book and a movie. His wife, Julia, was a champion for military spouses and changed the way next of kin are notified when a service member is killed.
In their honor, Fort Benning in Georgia officially became Fort Moore on Thursday as the Defense Department removes Confederate names and symbols from military property. Fort Moore is the only base named for a married couple.
“Together, Hal and Julie Moore embody the very best of our military and the very best of our nation,” Maj. Gen. Curtis Buzzard, Fort Moore’s commander, said at a ceremony marking the change, referring to General Moore by his nickname.
“By honoring them, Fort Moore recognizes the sacrifices of all veterans, especially highlighting those from Vietnam,” he added. “It also reinforces the important role Army spouses and families play in the success of our military.”
The protests over the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 led to broader conversations about racism, and calls to rename sites that honored Confederate officers who fought to preserve slavery and white supremacy. A committee created by Congress to recommend new names for nine U.S. bases selected Fort Moore for Fort Benning, which had been named for a pro-slavery general more than 50 years after the end of the Civil War.
In his remarks on Thursday, General Buzzard reflected on General Moore’s contribution to the Army’s integration. “As the commanding general of Fort Ord, California, during a time of high racial tension, Hal instituted an equal-opportunity policy banning discrimination,” he said.
Caitlin Sampson and her family live at Fort Moore. Her husband, Captain Stephen Sampson, is on the second month of a six-month deployment to Colombia.
Ms. Sampson’s sons, Wyatt and Henry, play with other families on the base, especially the “neighborhood dads,” while their father is away.
The community aspect of life on the base is essential for mothers, who are often sole caregivers. The Moore family lived in a house like this when they were stationed here.
Wyatt told his mother “some people’s daddies leave and they get hurt and they don’t come home,” but she tried to reassure him.
“When I was new to the military, other army spouses took me under their wings, and they taught me everything. It made me love the Army versus resenting how much my husband was gone,” Ms. Sampson said.
A Military Family for Life
After graduating from West Point, General Moore served in the military for more than 30 years, with assignments around the world. But he is perhaps best remembered for his leadership as a lieutenant colonel at the beginning of the Vietnam War.
In November 1965, the miliary leader took his outnumbered troops into the valley of Ia Drang, and a bloody fight ensued. The North Vietnamese troops retreated in what was considered a tactical victory for the United States. But casualties were heavy. Within 72 hours, 79 U.S. soldiers were killed, and 121 were wounded.
“In battle our world shrank to the man on our left and the man on our right and the enemy all around,” General Moore recalled in his memoir, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young.” The battle and his actions were later depicted in a movie starring Mel Gibson.
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