After a decade of serving Uncle Sam in unglamorous — even dirty — jobs, Tirrell and Danielle Moore earned less than $5,000 a month in basic pay.

But Lady Luck not only smiled on the two staff sergeants last week, she laughed out loud. And all they had to do was buy a ticket.

On Tuesday, the couple won a $150 million multistate lottery while home on leave in Fitzgerald, Ga., and became Georgia’s biggest lottery winners ever.

And instead of contemplating their military jobs — chemical decontamination for him and helicopter electronics for her, the two are dreaming about an entirely different kind of life, starting with huge parties and houses to hold them in.

During an interview with CNN on Friday, Danielle, 27, mentioned “my dream wedding” as one of the first things she wanted. “And ... I’m getting a house built,” she added. It will likely be a step up from Camp Humphreys, the Army post on which both live in South Korea.

The couple, married eight years ago by a justice of the peace before returning to work the next day, opted for an $89 million lump sum payment from the Mega Millions lottery.

Danielle is with Company C, 52nd Aviation Regiment, while her husband, Stephen, who goes by his middle name Tirrell, serves with the 520th Maintenance Company. Danielle has spent a decade in the Army; she told CNN she had re-enlisted in August for four more years but now would de-enlist. It’s unclear how much time Tirrell, 30, who joined the Army in 1994, had remaining in his enlistment but he also has said he’d soon be a civilian, according to news reports.

“That’s pretty much it, just get out,” he told CNN.

Well, maybe not. Despite their many millions, they may have to hurry up and wait. First, they must return to their units in South Korea, according to an Army spokesman, to begin the process of requesting an “early out.”

“Yes, they have to go back to Korea and file the paperwork,” said Maj. Steve Stover, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. “Just because they won the lottery, they’re still soldiers,” he said.

Not a problem, Tirrell, who was also known in his hometown as “Frog,” told the Macon Telegraph.

“Yes, I’m going back and say farewell to everybody [in Korea],” he said in his CNN interview. “I have a lot of good friends over there. So I want to actually see them face to face. I guess I have to go back because I called, and they weren’t expecting me to come back, but I’m going to go back anyway — tell them bye.”

Army regulations do permit soldiers to ask for early release under “extraordinary circumstances,” Stover said. The rules that would apply are found in Army Regulation 635-2, Chapter 5, paragraph 5-3.

But approval is not automatic. Stover said the decision is made at the Army’s Human Resources Command. Who, exactly, would decide the matter was not known, he said. He declined to speculate about whether approval would be granted. “It’s far too early in the process,” he said.

Last week, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, an 8th Army spokesman, told reporters that soldiers generally have an obligation to finish their enlistments but that they can be released when it’s in the best interest of the service and the soldier.

The Army apparently has never had a case in which a soldier won the lottery and asked to get out early, said Stover, based on a conversation he had with Army lawyers familiar with the regulation.

But the “extraordinary circumstances” regulation has been used in instances in which when a soldier comes into a windfall inheritance.

“It’s rare” for the Army to get requests under the rule, Stover said, simply because very few soldiers — or civilians, for that matter — find themselves suddenly fabulously wealthy. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Stover said.

There was no information immediately available concerning how many soldiers have asked for an early out using the regulation, or what the decisions were in those cases, Stover said. “The Army does not track that,” he said.

— Jeremy Kirk also contributed to this story.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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