Cold War vet will deliver Memorial Day speech
Before he was the adjutant of Wilton’s James B. Whipple American Legion Post 86, Fairfield resident and this year’s Wilton Memorial Day parade keynote speaker Tom Moore served as a Russian language-trained interrogator for the U.S. Army during the Cold War.
Moore entered service on Aug. 30, 1983 — about two years after graduating with a law enforcement degree from the University of New Haven.
He received basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, followed by interrogation training at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Moore then went to USAG Presidio of Monterey in California, where he spent almost a year learning Russian.
After completing language school, Moore was assigned to a unit in Germany where he served as a liaison between the German authorities and the U.S. Army.
“The unit I worked with was called the Border Resident Office in Weiden, and essentially we were an early warning for Russians attacking the West,” he said.
“If the Germans heard talk of the Czechoslovakians or the Russians planning something, they would contact us and we would go right up to higher headquarters.”
While it was “always a real threat,” Moore said, at the same time, “it wasn’t a real threat.”
“It was a great experience because of what didn’t happen, and that was war,” he said.
Although he was never involved in combat, Moore said, he was “always ready” to serve when needed.
“We did our due diligence. I was on the border [of East and West Germany] four times a week with the Germans. They would show us certain points along the border where possibly the Czechs or the Russians might attack,” he said.
“We were really there to see if there were any changes in military readiness on the other side [such as] a buildup of tanks or … extra soldiers training.”
Moore said one of his responsibilities was to translate reports sent by German authorities into English and notify “higher headquarters” of anything “pertinent.”
During his time on active duty, Moore worked at a remote site about 15 kilometers from the Czechoslovakian border and lived on a dairy farm.
“My landlords were dairy farmers, and to this day, we still keep in touch,” he said.
“It was the best experience of my life — it really was. The people I lived with were just the nicest people, and I met a lot of great people — both American and German.”
Moore said he considers himself “very fortunate” to have had the experiences he did.
Moore’s last day of active duty in Germany was Aug. 29, 1987. After that, he served in an Army Reserves unit in Danbury until June 5, 1988, which was also the day he got married.
Moore went on to work in the mailroom/marketing department of what is now Unilever in Greenwich for “a few months” before joining the Darien post office, where he worked for 27 years.
“It was a great deal because the post office, being a federal job, allowed my four years of service time to be counted toward retirement,” said Moore, who was able to retire at the age of 56 with 31 years of service.
After transferring from American Legion Post 200 to an American Legion Post in Fairfield, Moore transferred to Wilton’s James B. Whipple American Legion Post 86 in April 1999. He was asked to be Post 86’s adjutant two months later.
Moore said his Memorial Day speech will focus on two centennials: the end of World War I and the death of James B. Whipple, Wilton’s first casualty of that war.
“I want to remind everybody about World War I, but I also want people to be reminded of the personal cost,” said Moore, who wants to “personalize that cost” through Whipple.
“I want to remind people that everybody has a story and that James Whipple is more than just a name on a monument — he was a person who had a life with hopes and dreams and never got to fulfill them.”
Through his Memorial Day speech, Moore said, he also wants people to “understand that Memorial Day is not about having a day off from work or having a cookout.”
“It’s about remembering those who have given their all — the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “I believe with all of my heart that we need to remember that every day, but if not, [at least] on Memorial Day.”
This year’s Wilton Memorial Day parade will take place Monday, May 28, beginning at 10. The parade will start at 21 River Road and continue up Old Ridgefield Road, past the war memorial to Ridgefield Road and on to Hillside Cemetery, where graveside services will be held.
Moore noted that “when a parade passes by with the American flag, you stand — unless you’re unable to physically — and place your hand over your heart, or you salute if you’re a veteran or in uniform.”