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Local veteran, author recognized with 2021 George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award

 

Brian Moore during one of his tours to the Middle East in the early 2000s

During halftime of Saturday’s Flames Football game against Louisiana University, Liberty University recognized the Rev. Brian Moore, a retired Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army National Guard and Purple Heart veteran, as this year’s recipient of the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award.

Since 2010, Liberty has presented the award each year to a man or woman who served in the United States Armed Forces and went above the call of duty, displaying extraordinary heroism while in the service and continuing to be an outstanding ambassador in their community. The award’s namesake honors Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal recipient George Rogers, who was taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II. Rogers survived the Bataan Death March and went on to become CEO of Thomas Road Baptist Church’s “Old Time Gospel Hour” in 1974 before finishing his career at Liberty as Vice President of Finance and Administration. Rogers passed away in 2019.

Saturday’s presentation was a highlight of Liberty’s Military Appreciation Month festivities, which will conclude with next Saturday’s noon football game against Army, also to be played at Williams Stadium. (Veterans and service members can receive free tickets for that contest through the Vet Tix link.)

Moore served as a squad leader, a platoon sergeant, and an embedded advisor to the Afghan Army. During his three tours of duty (two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan), he earned two Army Commendation Medals, the Combat Action Badge, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in combat.

“I was humbled by it,” the New Hampshire native said of receiving the award. “I was quite surprised by it when I got the call, and just to be considered and to be counted among such men who I hold in high esteem is a very humbling honor. I hope to continue to live up to that recognition.”

During halftime of Saturday’s Flames Football game against Louisiana University, Rev. Brian Moore was awarded the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award.

Although history education was his 25-year vocation, Moore, who had enlisted with the U.S. Army National Guard Infantry in New Hampshire in 1983, was called into active duty shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to serve in Iraq in 2003.

During that tour, Moore and his team found themselves in the middle of intense gunfire altercations with the Al Qaeda Insurgents.

“That was a real time of coming to reality of where this was and where I was,” he said. “And rather quickly, I stopped being called Mr. Moore the teacher and started being called Sgt. Moore.”

As a strong Christian man and leader, the younger men looked up to Moore as a spiritual influence during this dark season of life.

“Everybody knew who I was, so the guys came to me on the way over there and while we were there, concerned about their salvation,” he said.

Through many conversations with his men, Moore was able to share the Gospel with those he was overseas with, encouraging them to surrender their lives to the Lord.

“I think God used that to keep me somewhat grounded,” he said. “Because it was easy to get angry at the people we were fighting.”

Moore said that during times of gunfire, the Insurgents soldiers would often pull women and children in front of them, a tactic that enraged Moore and his men and made it difficult to not live in anger.

“You have to find that balance between righteous indignation, self-defense, and defense of the country,” he said.

During halftime of Saturday’s game, Liberty honored the over 40,000 military students who represent the Liberty family.

Like many other veterans, Moore returned after his tour with the lingering feeling that he had more to give. He left his wife and four children to answer the call to serve his country overseas two more times, with his last tour coming at a great cost.

With near 50 men at his command and almost all of them under 20 years old, Moore traveled to Iraq in 2008 not realizing what would become of them.

“When we were deployed to go to war, we were the youngest group to ever be deployed out of New Hampshire in any war,” he said. “They were all out of boot camp. At this point, I’m in my late 40s and they are all 17, 18, or 19.”

One of these young men was a former history student of Moore’s in the early 2000s.

“He was joking with me before we left that only in America can you go to war with your history teacher,” Moore said laughing. “They were comparing me to Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ And it was like that.”

“That’s who we are as Americans,” he added. “When a call comes up, when there is a threat throughout our time and our history, you put down your plow or the tools of your trade and you pick up a gun and you go to war to protect your country and your loved ones.”

Moore said he recalls a conversation with the student’s father, a discussion that he will always remember.

“He was obviously very emotional and he asked me, ‘Can you promise to bring my son home?’ And I said, ‘Well, I promise I won’t leave Iraq without him. But I can’t promise you that I’ll bring him back alive.’”

After landing in Iraq, Moore and his men were stationed in a dangerous area in close proximity to the enemy’s base in Sadr City.

“It was an area that they control,” he said. “We got targeted on almost a daily basis. During the tour, we had two of our Humvee trucks blown up. We lost seven or eight guys, due to IEDs (improvised explosive devices) by the end of our tour.”

One day, in April of 2008, Moore said that he and his comrades were receiving rocket fire right outside their bunker but did not realize until afterward that the enemy’s missile accuracy was due to the U.S. Army’s Iraqi barber who was working undercover with the enemy. The barber lined up the gunfire with his unit’s location by cell phone signal.

“He was on top of our building with a cell phone directing fire on top of us,” Moore said.

Holding true to his policy of always being the last man to enter the bunker during rocket attacks, Moore was not able to take cover in time before the explosion hit.

“There was an explosion behind me which launched me forward and I hit a part of the concrete bunker,” he said. “I dislocated my hip and had a lot of blunt trauma. I had nerve damage, and at the time I couldn’t move my legs and only could move one arm. My ears were bleeding from the concussion, and I was in and out of consciousness.”

While still under fire, some of Moore’s men carried their leader to a flatbed truck outside the bunker and rushed him to the hospital on the base.

After being sent from the base’s hospital to two more in the Middle East, Moore returned to the U.S., having been informed that some of his injuries were permanent.

Medically discharged in 2010 due to back and hip injuries, Moore and his family moved to Central Virginia, away from the colder weather that made his injuries more difficult to bear and closer to Liberty University, where their oldest son, Brandon, worked.

“We came down and we liked the area so we settled down in Appomattox,” Moore said. “Our youngest two children went to Liberty Christian Academy (LCA) and my wife (Raquel) worked at Liberty for several years.”

Now, over a decade since moving to the area, three of Moore’s children, Chad, Joshua and Rebekah, have graduated from Liberty and Joshua has joined Brandon as a university employee.

“LCA was a wonderful experience for my younger two children, and Liberty University was as well,” he said. “For my (youngest) son, going through Liberty University and taking the religion and worldview classes really helped him to solidify his Christian worldview.”

“We just really appreciate Jerry Sr.’s original vision,” he added. “We’re blessed to have been able to take part in it.”

In addition to maintaining his sheep and goat farm in Bedford County and connecting with local veterans groups such as the Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council, Moore is also an ordained minister with the Southern Baptist Convention, a keynote speaker, and an interim preacher.

He recently authored a memoir of his tours of duty, titled “Purple Hearts and Wounded Spirits: One Man’s Journey through War, Faith, and Forgiveness.” His book was published by the Liberty University Press and the foreword was written by Gov. Mike Huckabee. He also hosts a radio program, “One Minute Moore,” that can be heard twice daily on Central Virginia’s WLNI (105.9 FM).