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Soldier loved the outdoors, the Army

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010, at 12:02 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 30, 2012, at 11:06 a.m.

When he was a boy, Tom Moffitt liked to pretend he was a fighting soldier, a Marine, or stationed somewhere with the Navy.

"Even from a young age, he'd talk about the Armed Services," said his childhood friend Conor Shine. "So it didn't surprise me when he joined the Army. It made sense, with his personality. He was seeing the world and exploring."

Army Spc. Tom Moffitt of Wichita was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday.

He was scheduled to come home on leave next month. His family was notified by Army officials on Sunday that he had been killed.

"We are very proud of him," said his cousin George Diepenbrock, of Lawrence. "We are thankful of his service and what he did. And, that he gave his life for all of us."

Mr. Moffitt turned 21 last month.

Services are planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at Central Community Church, 6100 W. Maple in Wichita.

Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.

He was born Sept. 20, 1989, and at first was a little shy — so much so that in the beginning, friends say, he took his blanket with him almost every day to the West Heights United Methodist Preschool.

"He was sort of a quiet guy when he was young and then, once you got to be his friend, he'd open up and be really goofy," Shine said. "He had that goofy smile."

Mr. Moffitt grew up playing little league football, basketball and baseball at the YMCA and also participated in the baseball league at OK Elementary School.

He attended Kensler Elementary and Wilbur Middle School, and was a 2008 graduate of Northwest High School.

He loved to hunt and fish and most recently had a special fondness, friends say, for Kentucky Gentleman whiskey.

"I've known him since sixth grade and he was like a brother to me," said Nick Johnson, a roommate of Mr. Moffitt when they attended a semester together at Hutchinson Community College. "He was an all-around good guy. He loved the Army. His game plan was to go into the Army, save up money and buy up a bunch of land so we could go hunting and fishing together — that's what that boy loved."

Johnson, Casey Gegen, Caleb Dykes and Devan Krausch were all good friends.

They'd go camping together along the Ninnescah, catch bass or catfish near Cheney, build roaring campfires, drink beer and, late at night, climb up into an old maple tree they nicknamed "Tom's tree."

"Every time we went out to the river, we'd climb up there and hang out and have a couple of beers for him," Gegen said.

In the past year, when Mr. Moffitt was stationed in South Korea, and then Afghanistan, friends say he quickly turned from a gangly kid into a man.

When he came home for a weekend last summer before deployment to Afghanistan, friends say there were two songs he'd play over and over: "If I Don't Make It Back" by Tracy Lawrence and "Modern Day Prodigal Son" by Brantley Gilbert.

When they saw him on his last leave, friends said, he was nervous but ready.

"He knew he was about to experience something he'd never seen before in life and it was something he couldn't talk about with his parents — just his friends," Johnson said. "He was excited but at the same time nervous. He had no regrets going into the infantry."

Krausch said of his friend: "He left his mark on everybody. No matter who you were, he had no enemies. That kid made anybody smile."

Mr. Moffitt was a specialist in Delta Company of the 2nd Battalion in the 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, known as the "Screaming Eagles." He served as a gunner on a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and was stationed in the Paktika Province, in the southeastern part of Afghanistan.

Last week, Mr. Moffitt notified his friends that he'd be coming home and asked to have the beer on ice waiting.

Then, the phone calls came.

"Nick called me, bawling, and told me what happened. I called Casey and he was speechless. He didn't know what to say," Krausch said.

Word spread quickly late Sunday and Monday to more friends.

"There are some people you always expect will be there; he was one," said Bri Tucker, a childhood neighbor. "My goal as a kid was always to get my homework done and go play with Jake and Tom. I knew they would always be there and always available. I'd go there to hang out, play hide-and-seek, sports or whatever. They were always there."

Mr. Moffitt is survived by his parents, John and Brenda Moffitt, and an older brother, Jake, a student at the University of Kansas.

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