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Fallen Green Beret recalled at his funeral

By KIM MCGUIRE | Houston Chronicle (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 13, 2016

When the news broke that three American soldiers had been killed Nov. 4 in Jordan, Melissa Moriarty felt paralyzed.

She couldn't eat. She couldn't sleep. She couldn't do anything until she heard her little brother, Jimmy, 27, a member of the Army's elite special forces, was safe.
So she wrote him an email.

"You are so loved," she wrote. "You are such a source of joy and laughter. I adore you. I am so proud of you. I love bragging about my bad ass brother."

About 30 minutes later, Moriarty's mother called, confirming her worst fears. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James "Jimmy" Moriarty was one of the three soldiers killed at the Jordanian military base.

On Saturday, Melissa, supported by her sister Rebecca, read the email to hundreds of Jimmy's friends, family members and fellow soldiers gathered for his funeral at Annunciation Orthodox School in Houston.

Details are still emerging about the incident that claimed Moriarty's life. The Washington Post reported Saturday the three fallen soldiers had been working for a CIA program to train moderate Syrian fighters when they were shot at a checkpoint at the Prince Faisal Air Base near Jafr, about 150 miles south of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Moriarty's friends said during his funeral service that it's no surprise he was tapped to help train other soldiers. He was a natural born leader who excelled at just about everything.

"He was your shield," said Eugene Terry, a friend of Moriarty's from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory high school. "He allowed you to let go and live."

Terry and other friends described Moriarty's zest for life, a propensity for harmless mischief and his ability to live in the moment.

Sean Roberts, a friend of Jimmy's from middle school, told a story about how Jimmy convinced him and few other classmates to make a movie about the life of Genghis Khan for a history project.

Why Ghengis Khan?

It had a lot to do with the fact that Jimmy's mother had a bearskin rug and he thought he could wrap himself in it and look just like the Mongolian warlord.

It wasn't a great plan -- Roberts ended up writing a paper for the group instead -- but it did speak to the fact that Jimmy was a natural born leader.

"You felt lucky to be around him," Roberts said. "You felt exhilarated. I know I even felt a little intimidated to be around Jimmy."

Steven Geuther, one of Jimmy's friends from the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics, described a perfect spring day they once shared in Austin.

It was during Round Up, an epic celebration by UT's fraternities and sororities. Jimmy, who belonged to the Sigma Epsilon fraternity, and his friends were shirtless, surrounded by beautiful girls and enjoying some adult cold beverages.

"And Jimmy said, "Take me now Lord!" Geuther recalled Saturday.

Geuther and Jimmy's other friends also described Moriarty's impressive storytelling abilities. He could captivate a room with his tales, compelling his friends to laugh until they cried. And nobody laughed harder than Jimmy, especially when it came to his own stories.

His father, James, a Houston lawyer, said Jimmy inherited his love for shooting and blowing things up, his charm from his mother and a sense of refinement from his sisters.

Where Jimmy got his gift for storytelling remains a mystery, though it was apparent from a young age, his father said.

Moriarty's friends were not surprised he joined the military. Some were surprised, however, when he set the goal of becoming a Green Beret, which requires intensive training.

"I admit to being a little apprehensive about this dream of his," wrote Sam Pinkston, a college friend. "He certainly did not look the part of an elite military operator when we left the Sig Ep house and set off for Tyler. But that concern was foolish; I overlooked the mountain of a man that Jimmy was on the inside."

Moriarty, who lived his dream as a Green Beret, served three military tours overseas. During his career, he became a weapons specialist, worked as a sniper and helped train soldiers in the countries where he worked, fellow soldiers said.
Several members of Moriarty's 5th Special Forces Group attended the funeral to pay homage to their fallen brother.

One described Moriarty as a perfectionist who never cut corners when it came to his job.

Seeing Jimmy's fellow soldiers, as well has his friends from Strake, UT and Annunciation Orthodox School, gave the family some sense of comfort, his father said.

Since Jimmy's death, Moriarty said he's been thinking of the scene from the movie "Saving Private Ryan" where a dying Army captain played by Tom Hanks tells Private Ryan "Earn this. Earn it."

It's a good parable, Moriarty said. Everyone should earn the life they live, to be good and work hard.

"And Jimmy did that in ways that just stun me and I knew him well," Moriarty said.

Besides his father, James R. Moriarty, Jimmy is survived by his mother, Cindy Moriarty of Kerrville, Texas, and his sisters Rebecca Moriarty of Houston, and Melissa Moriarty of Bogotá, Colombia.

(c) 2016 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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