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Old soldier, new mission

Most of the Korean War veterans digging into their chili bowls at the Fort Meade golf course's Double Bogey Lounge wear their Army affiliation subtly, with a small pin or patch on their sleeves.

Not retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond J. Moran, known on the Odenton post as "Old Soldier."

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Never shy about his love for the Army, the longtime recruiter is wearing three nylon Army jackets - each with its own lapel pin - plus a tie pin, a Korean War baseball hat covered with military decorations and a combat infantry patch.

"This I learned from being in a foxhole during the Korean War: You dress in layers on cold days," Moran says.

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It's one of many lessons Moran has taken from his 56-year career with the Army. At 75, he's the oldest and one of the most effective Army salesmen at Fort Meade's 1st Recruiting Brigade.

At a time when news of casualties in Iraq challenges Army recruiters across the nation, Moran, who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and in Desert Storm, is persuading young Americans to serve their country.

"He's so effervescent and energetic and positive, and there's just no way you can forget that. Right away, it stands out," says Richard Lane, an Army public affairs officer who has known Moran since the mid-1980s. "What he does is for the love of the Army and his country. Hopefully that rubs off on the young recruits."

From the time he comes to work at 6:30 a.m. to when he leaves at 3:30 p.m., Moran answers his phone with a cheerful: "Sergeant Major Ray Moran, the Old Soldier, proud to help you!"

He greets everyone from the fresh-faced guards at the gates to the oldest veterans in his Korean War group with a hearty Army "Hoahh!" followed by: "Old soldier, I'm proud of you!"

If he knows that a civilian served in the Reserve, Moran makes a point to note the rank - Lane, who retired from the Reserve in 1996, is always "Colonel" to Moran.

"He always makes me feel good," Lane says, "reminding me that I earned that."

Moran doesn't know how many soldiers he has recruited - possibly thousands. Among his recent recruits is Jacob Ives, son of Fort Meade Garrison Commander Col. John W. Ives.

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The commander has an older son who served in Iraq. But his younger son never expressed interest until Moran visited one night and began talking about his service. Shortly afterward, Jacob Ives shipped out to Fort Stewart, Ga., where he's a private first-class.

"He just inspires young people to want to serve your country," John Ives said. "What a great American. Is there anybody in the Army he doesn't know?"

A few years ago, Moran organized the Korean War veterans' monthly luncheons to remind those who retired from the Army long ago that their country hadn't forgotten them.

"I wouldn't be so active if it weren't for him," says 84-year-old Carlo DePorto, a former artilleryman who served in World War II and Korea. "He has a gift of gab."

Moran's office walls are more decorated than his lapels. Slogans from the last century's recruiting efforts share space with autographed photos of generals, thank-you notes from recruits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and medals and commendations. They include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry Badge.

"He is what I would call one of our shamans," says Sean Marshall, the brigade's chief of advertising and public affairs. "His wisdom, if it were lost, would affect the whole organization."

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Even the Old Soldier says he never expected to be in the Army this long.

Growing up in Latrobe, Pa., Moran and his brother often ran to the railroad station to see off older classmates bound for combat in World War II. That many never returned didn't stop the brothers from enlisting in 1948. Soon, Moran shipped off to Japan, then served in Korea. He still remembers his Tokyo address from more than 50 years ago.

"I didn't know if I was going to stay in the Army," Moran says, "but I knew I liked it right away."

He returned from Korea and became a recruiter in Washington, Pa., south of Pittsburgh and near his hometown. There, he fell in love with a courthouse clerk named Barbara Schilinsky; they married on Valentine's Day in 1953.

Fifty years later, the couple still act like newlyweds. Their wedding day photo graces the back of Moran's business card. His "bride" rises most mornings before dawn to make him breakfast, usually pancakes. When they eat out, Barbara orders for both of them.

"She's been feeding me for 50 years, and I'm healthy because of her," Moran says.

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In 1969, at age 40, Moran volunteered to serve in Vietnam. It was during this tour as a sergeant major - the Army's highest rank for enlisted soldiers - that Moran, nearly two decades older than most other fighters, earned the nickname "Old Soldier." He earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in a battle where a younger soldier died by his side.

Moran retired from active duty in 1978 and immediately signed up as a recruiter at Fort Meade. When the Persian Gulf war began in 1990, he volunteered for recall duty - at age 61. He drew one of the most unpleasant assignments: mortuary casualty duty. He was responsible for assisting families after they learned their soldiers were not coming home.

After a Scud missile killed 28 soldiers with the 14th Quartermaster Detachment during the last few hours of the gulf war, it was Moran who helped the families. The assignment was doubly hard because the unit was based a few miles from his hometown.

"It's got to be a special person doing that job. You've got to have some compassion. I knew Ray would go out and do a fantastic job," says Dean Ryan, who was the personnel sergeant major supervising Desert Storm assignments for Fort Meade.

Moran made a point of consoling recruiters in Greensburg, Pa. - he knew the responsibility they felt for the deaths. He made the same call to the Beckley, W.Va., recruiting office after Pfc. Jessica Lynch was captured in Iraq last year.

Moran doesn't use a cellular phone, and he says he needs help checking e-mail. Yet between 1997 and 2000, according to brigade figures, he recruited 86 soldiers - high numbers for recruiters of any age.

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"You can see his pride. You have to admire that," says Alisha Durrette, a 23-year-old who walked into Moran's office a year ago with the goal of going to officer's candidate school. Now a second lieutenant, Durrette is on her way to Korea.

Ten years ago, the battalion created an "Old Soldier" award to honor Moran. Each year, he presents it to a soldier or Army civilian embodying his enthusiasm.

"Every day he inspires me," says 1st Sgt. Deborah Liles, the Army recruiter who administers the award.

Moran has inspired his sons, too. One, a Montgomery County police sergeant, spent six years with the Army Reserve. The other works for the Defense Department at Fort Meade.

Moran says jokingly that he and fellow Latrobe native Arnold Palmer are the only ones from their 1947 graduating class still working. He keeps the golf legend busy these days - rare is the friend of Moran's who doesn't have a personalized Palmer photo.

And with daily push-ups keeping him in shape and a wife who is happy to see him off every morning, the Old Soldier said he plans to keep on recruiting.

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"I don't consider myself old," Moran says, "and I don't consider retiring."

Service highlights

1948: Enlisted in the Army with the 101st Airborne Division in Camp Breckenridge, Ky.

1950-51: Served as a combat infantryman in Korea. Returned home as staff sergeant with the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Bronze Star.

1966-69: Sergeant major of the Boston recruiting command.

1969-70: Went to Vietnam as sergeant major to re-enlist soldiers, received Purple Heart. After a brief return to Fort Monroe, Va., sent back to Vietnam and Europe for further recruiting.

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1979: Retired from active duty and began working at Fort Meade as an Army recruiting specialist, where he continues to work.

1991: Volunteered for active duty during Desert Storm; was assigned mortuary casualty duty at Dover Air Force base in Delaware before retiring from active duty once again and returning to the recruiting command.

Personal

Lives in Odenton.

Married to the former Barbara Ann Schilinsky for almost 51 years.

Three children: Raymond Moran III, 40, a Montgomery County police officer; Richard J. Moran, 37, a Defense Department worker at Fort Meade; Roberta J. Moran-Peer, 49, a college librarian in Front Royal, Va.

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Six grandchildren.


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