It had been more than 50 years since he stood at the pulpit, and even longer since he’d spoken at his alma mater. A decorated Vietnam War vet, Col. Richard “Dick” Moore ’63 delivered the keynote address at the University of Lynchburg’s annual Veterans Day service in Snidow Chapel on Monday morning. It was no ordinary sermon, though it started with two Bible verses.
“You might expect me to be straight-forward,” said Moore, who completed two combat tours and was awarded numerous medals, among them four Bronze Stars, before serving for many years in national intelligence. However, he added, things were more complex for him, as he is also a “far-from-perfect Christian.”
In particular, there were two points Moore wanted to make.
“As American, we need to take better care of our veterans,” he said. “As Christians, we need to think long and hard about wars.”
American veterans, he added, have “suffered for too long.”
In Moore’s case, fighting a war that lacked public support made his return home — and the transition to normal life – all the more painful. The “Welcome home! America is Proud of You!” sign that greeted him felt meaningless, he said. Nobody cheered for him, even though he put his life on the line. Moore believes that Vietnam War veterans still struggle today in large part because their country turned its back on them.
Next, he reminded those gathered that most conflicts have been fought in the name of religion. “More people have been killed in the name of religion in the last 2,000 years than for any other cause,” Moore said. “Think about that.” And another staggering statistic: “In our nation’s history, we have been involved in conflict somewhere for 226 years of our 243 years – that is 94 percent.”
During the Civil War, he noted, both sides would pray for victory, presuming that God approved of war or took sides. “War isn’t consistent with the teachings of Christ,” Moore concluded. “Killing is a sin.”
He said he’s not sure whether killing in defense of one’s country is a sin. “If it is, then a lot of people, myself included, are going to go straight to hell.”
He admitted that war tested his faith and even turned him away from God for some time.
“In truth, I am conflicted about Veterans Day,” Moore said. But perhaps, he added, God doesn’t expect us to match Jesus? Perhaps we just have to do our best.
“Let’s take care of our veterans,” he said. “Honor them for their service. ‘Welcome home, soldier! America is proud of you.’”
Moore’s passionate speech was followed by another highlight. Gary Witt, commander of the City of Lynchburg’s chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the MOPH’s National Sergeant-At-Arms, presented the University with the Purple Heart University plaque.
The designation, awarded by the MOPH in August, recognizes the University for its support of veterans wounded in combat. As part of the designation, the University set aside four parking spaces reserved for Purple Heart recipients.
Following the service, University President Dr. Kenneth Garren, who holds the rank of Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired, and his wife, Sheila, hosted a Veterans Day Observance Luncheon in the Drysdale Student Center’s West Room.