A few years before my husband joined the military we went to the movies to watch the 2002 film, We Were Soldiers. What I really enjoyed about this movie was that we not only got the story of Lt. Gen Harold G. Moore, played by Mel Gibson, but we also got the story of his wife, Julie Moore, played by Madeleine Stowe. As we watched scenes of the men going off to Vietnam, we also watched scenes of the wives back at home at Fort Benning. Even back then, before I knew I myself would be a military spouse, I could see what these spouses went through and how they needed one another.
As the years went on and I too became a military spouse, I could relate even more to these women. Although my husband was serving in a different war during a different time, my time in Germany felt in some ways similar to the women portrayed in this movie.
My favorite scene of We Were Soldiers is actually a deleted scene. As we start to watch we see helicopters flying, and then the camera goes to the chapel back at home. One of the wives starts to sing the hymn, On the Solid Rock I Stand but is unable to finish as she is trying to hold back her tears. Julie Moore and the other members of the congregation help her by starting to sing the song too. The movie then goes back to the helicopters.
What I love about this scene is it gives us an example of the military community and how we can step in to help each other through. Especially in a time of war, we need each other more than ever. You can also catch the real Julie Moore and her daughter sitting behind Keri Russell.
On May 11, 2023, Fort Benning became Fort Moore to honor Hal and Julie Moore. Maj. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Moore commanding general stated, “Together, Hal and Julie Moore embody the very best of our military and the very best of our nation. They were dedicated to their country, committed to their family, and inspired generations of Soldiers to follow in their footsteps.”
Hal Moore served in the military for 32 years after graduating from the US Military Academy in 1945. He wrote the book, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young which the movie was based on. We Were Soldiers depicts the first major battle of the Vietnam War in the la Drang Valley. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross after that fight.
His wife, Julie Moore, who he married in 1949, was an Army brat born at Fort Sill. In the movie, another powerful scene is when a taxi comes to Julie Moore’s door with a telegram, and she knows exactly what that means. She answers the door to see that the taxi driver just needed help finding the correct address and wasn’t there about her own husband. She gets very upset, rightly so, and then asks to take the telegram to the new widow herself. She also tells him to tell the taxi company to bring all of the rest of the telegrams directly to her.
Julie supported her fellow Army wives and families by changing the way the Army delivered the casualty messages. The Army was not prepared for all of this as you could see in the scene. Because of Julie, the Army changed its policy to what we see today, uniformed soldiers delivering the notices.
Julie wrote a letter to the director of We Were Soldiers in 1996 about her experiences as a military spouse. In the letter, she says, “It is really hard to describe the special closeness that Army wives have to each other. Even though I was lucky enough to end up a General’s wife, I never forgot that I started out as a lieutenant’s wife and the burdens they carried of raising young children with never enough money or husband.” You can read the rest of the letter here.
The change to Fort Moore recognizes both Hal and Julie Moore. They are both buried at the Fort Benning Cemetery.