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Army Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Moore, 28, Alpaugh; among 6 killed in explosion

June 03, 2007|J. Michael Kennedy | Times Staff Writer

Chris Moore knew the military was his way out of the tiny rural community of Alpaugh, Calif.

Most of the work if he stayed in the San Joaquin Valley town was in farming or the oil fields. But the military gave him a chance for a better life, perhaps even college after he did his time in the service.

So he went to high school year-round and graduated a year early. And the day after his 1996 graduation from Alpaugh High School, Moore joined the Army.

On May 19, Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Moore, 28, was killed in Baghdad along with five other soldiers when a roadside bomb exploded near their Bradley fighting vehicle while on patrol. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas.

On Tuesday, Moore was buried next to his best friend from the Army at a cemetery in Kennedale, Texas.

In the years between his enlistment and his death, Moore served three tours in the Middle East, was married and had three daughters.

"He always wanted to serve his country," said his mother, Martha. "He died doing the job he loved to do."

Moore's early life was not an easy one. His father, Tommy, who died in 1998, worked in the oil fields and on a farm. The family lived in the small San Joaquin Valley communities of Shafter and Taft before settling in Alpaugh, north of Bakersfield.

Frankie Smith, the town's retired school librarian, said Moore was a young man "with big dreams." She said Alpaugh was a place where most of her students went straight to work out of high school because going on to college was uncommon.

Moore showed his maturity, she said, by setting his sights on the military as a way to do something else with his life.

"He was like a man in a boy's body," Smith said.

More than that, there was a kind of sweetness to him that wasn't typical of teenagers -- "a kid who would give me a hug and never said anything cross."

Moore did his basic training at Ft. Benning, Ga., after which he was sent to Ft. Campbell, Ky., and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division -- nicknamed the "Screaming Eagles" -- where he earned his air assault badge. He was then deployed to Kuwait, his first Middle East assignment, where he guarded Patriot missile sites.

After returning from Kuwait, he was assigned to Ft. Benning, where he attended airborne school. He was stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Moore's tour of duty ended at Ft. Bragg and he returned to civilian life, but only briefly, before deciding that he preferred the military. He reenlisted and was assigned to Ft. Hood. From there, he was sent on his first tour of Iraq in April 2004, assigned to convoy security.

Last October, Moore was again sent to Iraq, this time as the commander of a Bradley fighting vehicle.

His ex-wife, Kindell Mills, who lives in Nolanville, Texas, said they met because her brother, Dustin Mills, and Moore had become close friends during basic training. The couple married and had daughters Ashlyn, 9; Kalyn, 7; and Taylor, 4.

"Chris was my best friend," she said. "And there is not another person in this world that could come close to the type of father he was to my children."

Moore's brother-in-law, Justin Paulk, said the last weekend Moore spent in the United States was emblematic of his life -- taking visiting family members to Six Flags, having his car towed but making light of it and volunteering to help paint the home of an elderly woman he had never met. Then, finally, on a Sunday, he finished off the weekend playing paintball.

But most of all, he said, his enduring memory will be of Moore with his daughters.

"He didn't lift weights to work out," Paulk said. "He lifted his girls up in the air."

On Monday, Moore's body was flown to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where a motorcycle escort accompanied it to Kennedale. The next day, he was buried next to Dustin Mills, who was killed in a car crash in 1997.

In addition to his ex-wife, daughters and mother, Moore is survived by a brother, Robert; two sisters, Misty Collins and Nancy Ince; his grandparents; and numerous other relatives.




War casualties

Total U.S. deaths*:

* In and around Iraq**: 3,463

* In and around Afghanistan***: 326

* Other locations***: 61

Source: Department of Defense* Includes military and Department of Defense-employed civilian personnel killed in action and in nonhostile circumstances

**As of Friday

***As of May 26

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