Matt and Dawn Moore were getting ready to send their son a Christmas care package when he called them from an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
Their son, 20-year-old Alex Moore, is an airman first class in the Air Force, assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. He called home that day looking to get his hands on some paint.
Moore and several others were working to restore a memorial for Elizabeth Jacobson, the first female airman killed in the line of duty during the Iraq war and the first Security Forces member killed in conflict since Vietnam.
She was killed in 2005 when a vehicle she was in hit an improvised explosive device – or IED. The memorial to Moore was dedicated later that year.
"After nearly a decade of rough, dry climate the memorial has been severely worn," Moore said in an email.
It was his unit commander who first noticed the damage to the memorial, Moore said, while conducting routine post visits. The commander sent out an email to see whether anyone was interested in restoring the memorial.
Moore and two others were, and their work began soon after.
"Before volunteering to resuscitate the memorial, I've only seen the memorial in passing and had never really stopped to get a close look at it," he said. "I soon realized it would take much more work to bring the painting back to the original state it once was."
The concrete memorial is about 8 feet wide and 5 feet tall. It has a 30-line poem and a painting of Jacobson and the American flag in the shape of Iraq in the center.
To restore it, Moore and the others had to scrub off the chipped paint and the dirt that had accumulated, he said, and covered the painting to spray paint over the poem.
The poem would be redone completely, Moore said, so he used Photoshop to create stencils for the letters. They also added more details to the center, including a thicker border around the image and brighter colors.
The only element of the memorial that wasn't significantly restored, Moore said, was Jacobson's face.
"It was probably the only thing that hadn't changed from the original painting in 2005," he said.
The restoration work started on Nov. 30, Moore said, and he and the others spent 8 to 10 hours each Saturday working on it. It was the only day all three had off, he said, and they had a Dec. 21 deadline to finish.
"Because of the deadline we were given, ordering paint online [was] not an option, as it would take way too long to arrive," Moore said. "I ended up having my parents mail a set of assorted paints."
The morning that his parents were getting ready to send his Christmas presents and a care package, Moore called to see whether they had sent it yet. They hadn't, so Moore added his request.
Luckily, Dawn Moore is into crafts and had some paints at the house – a box with 24 colors – that made its way to Moore along with his Christmas presents.
"I thought it was pretty neat that they had asked for volunteers and he volunteered for it," Matt Moore said. "I was proud of the fact that he was giving up some of his, I don't know if you call it free time, his off-duty time, to work on that project."
The Moores sent their son two packages – one with his presents and one with the paint.
It was taking 10 days for care packages to get from Amboy to their son, Matt said, but the two packages they sent didn't arrive at the same time.
"It wasn't until a day before our deadline when the [paint] package finally arrived," Alex said. "So we stayed out all through the night to finish it in time for the unveiling."
The paint got to Moore first, and with the looming deadline, it worked out better that way than the reverse.
This wasn't the first time Moore has volunteered. When he was in high school, he helped Amboy High School's library design a website, his father said, and had also done some painting and drawing while in basic training.
"I have an extensive background in graphic design prior to my military career," Alex said in an email. "So I thought it would be a great way to get involved, show my leadership skills, and most of all, honor our fallen brothers and sisters."