Tahlequah resident Michael Moore always knew he wanted to go into the military.
“When I was little, I would tear out those little cards from magazines and send them into the recruiters. They would send back pins and little things, and tell me I was too young,” said Moore, whose father retired from the Army.
In 1985, right after high school, he enlisted in the . From there, he went to training in Huntsville, Ala., and served time in Okinawa, Japan, and along the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
His contract was for four years’ active duty and four years of inactive duty. He was recalled a year and a half after active duty was up due to Operation Desert Storm. For almost a year, he was at Camp Pendleton, Calif., with orders to be deployed overseas.
“The war ended so fast that we were released without getting deployed,” said Moore, 52.
He left the Marines — the only branch of service there is, he says according to — as an E4 corporal. He was an ammunition and explosive ordnance disposal technician, and his secondary position was as a firefighter.
“I guess you could say I blew things up, caused fires, and then put them out,” he said.
Moore would definitely encourage others to enlist in the military. He thinks it should even be mandatory.
“It’s worth it. It’s tough, but if you can make it through basic and boot camp, in the end, it’s the life experiences you’ll look back on. They’re invaluable experiences,” he said. “I grew up. I gained discipline and all that comes with it. You gain the confidence that you can do things you didn’t know you could do.”
As for his time overseas, Moore loved it.
“I got my driver’s license in Okinawa. Over there, you drive on the other side of the road and the steering wheel is on the opposite side. There are a lot of differences. I enjoyed experiencing other cultures,” he said. “I covered every inch of the island. I got to see a lot. I worked with some Okinawans — they like to be called that instead of Japanese — and they would take me places. I got to do things that you don’t normally see or experience as a tourist. Korea was the same way. Korea is so different; it’s unreal.”
One thing that really struck Moore was going to a World War 2 museum in Okinawa.
“You get to see their perspective and it’s very different from our museums,” he said.
He chose not to re-enlist because he and his wife, Leah, wanted to have children, and they wanted them to be home with their grandparents and relatives. They have two children: their son is about to graduate from high school, and their daughter is an elementary school teacher.
Moore has been in law enforcement for 20 years and is currently the director of the drug task force for the District 27 District Attorney’s Office.
He and Leah have opened Burnt Ends BBQ in downtown Tahlequah, and Moore calls the restaurant his “retirement job.” A large American flag hangs in it, and veterans and their families are encouraged to leave photos pinned to it. Photos of his time in the service, as well as his father’s, are on the flag.
The local community does a lot to support veterans, according to Moore, but he has mixed reactions about the national support.
“For veterans like me, they do too much,” said Moore, who has not used any veterans benefits. “But for those who were actually wounded or who have come out with issues, they don’t do enough for them. I came out better than I went in.”
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