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Not forgotten: Gold Star family in Mississippi now has a permanent place to honor lost airman

By ALYSSA NEWTON | The (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun Herald | Published: November 25, 2019

BILOXI, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — For 54 years, Diane Moore felt forgotten.

She’s a Gold Star daughter — a title she wishes she didn’t bear and one with a meaning many people don’t know. During the past year, she’s worked to ensure that changes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Moore’s father was in the U.S. Air Force, but to her, he was dad. He was the one who shared RC Colas and moon pies with her, the one whom she would sneak off to see at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla. She was a proud, self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl.”

When she was 11, Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Moore left for his final tour in Vietnam. He was months away from his 20-year retirement at age 36, but Diane Moore said those close to him said her dad felt like it was the right thing to do.

It would be the last time her family ever saw him.

“It’s a difficult way to grow up,” Moore said. “I’ve been a Gold Star daughter for a long time.”

Gold Star families are those who have lost loved ones in combat during hostile situations.

Thomas Moore and two other airmen were captured in Vietnam in 1965. He is listed as a prisoner of war and his case is still active as missing in action. Moore said she has no idea what happened after the trio were captured nor where he was held captive. All she has is the location where he was last seen and secondhand stories about what might have happened.

Now, more than half a century later, Moore still pieces together what her father was like.

His best friend, Chief Master Sgt. Jasper Page, also was one of the three captured, but he escaped. He will only tell her a few stories of what he remembers, but that has helped her know the man her dad was.

“To hear someone say, ‘You have your dad’s eyes and his smile,’ when it’s something you had never heard before, is priceless,” Moore said. “I have the airman and professional he was from his files, and the daddy he was from when I was younger, but these are stories of what he was like as a man, as a friend.”

Moore has a passion for telling her dad’s story and what life has been like carrying her father’s name and the sacrifice he made his country.

“When in combat, a soldier dies twice,” Moore said, “once when your body stops living and another when your name is never spoken again.”

Moore made it her mission to ensure members of the military who never came home are remembered. That’s why she decided to head an effort to bring a memorial to the area.

On Saturday, a Gold Star memorial monument was unveiled at Guice Park, on U.S. 90 at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. The land and the concrete structure along the memorial were donated by the city of Biloxi.

There are many other Gold Star monuments around the country, and Biloxi’s is the second in Mississippi. Usually, raising money for such a project can take months, even years. Moore said she didn’t have to do much more than share her story and the idea with Keelser Federal Credit Union before they agreed to buy and erect the monument.

“For me, that land has become sacred,” Moore said. “For me, now I don’t have to go to D.C. to see his name on the Vietnam Memorial or go to his memorial marker in Arlington.”

“If I’m feeling down and out, or it’s a holiday, I can now go down to Guice Park. Hopefully, it will show our community it is for the families who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Moore said she no longer feels forgotten. Not only is there now a memorial to honor families like hers, but she’s gained other “family” and friends. In the past year, Moore has shared her story with hundreds of people. She’s been asked to ride in parades and has connected to people in a community that’s special to her family.

“My dad met my mom at a dance in Pascagoula; he was stationed many times at Keesler — the Gulf Coast is home,” Moore said. “And the support from the community has been something incredible.”

Moore said that she still has hope that one day she will know what happened to her father and return him home to the Gulf Coast.

But until that day, she now has somewhere to remember him and knows what he did for the U.S. will never be forgotten.

©2019 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)
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