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Spc. Thomas Moffitt remembered as a friend and patriot

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, at 3:55 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, at 9:07 p.m.

In some ways, Thomas Adam Moffitt seemed unlikely material to be a soldier.

He was so thin growing up that people joked he could hide behind a shotgun — if he was strong enough to hold it.

And he was so laid back and easy to get along with he seemed to make friends everywhere he went. It's not that big a deal, he liked to say about almost anything.

But he was also "a patriot almost from birth," as his father, John, put it.

"He died doing exactly what he wanted to do — but, more importantly, he lived doing exactly what he wanted to do," Daniel Weller said at a memorial service for his childhood friend Saturday at Central Community Church.

Spc. Tom Moffitt, 21, was killed Oct. 23 in the Sarobi District in Paktika Province of southeastern Afghanistan.

The Defense Department said that Moffitt's unit was attacked by insurgents with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

He was an infantryman assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. He served as a gunner on a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.

When he enlisted in the infantry, it came as no real surprise to his family and friends.

"He wanted to be where the action is," John Moffitt said in remarks read at the service. "He was not satisfied with any duty that did not contain risk.

"I'm not sure exactly why, but he felt like his personal mission would not be complete if combat was not involved."

Perhaps 1,000 people attended the service in the church, while nearly that many stood outside bearing American flags.

Red, white and blue balloons festooned the stage at the front of the sanctuary.

Photographs of Moffitt's life flashed on three large screens, and framed photos rested on small stands cloaked with red cloth.

A bagpipe opened the service with "Amazing Grace" and closed it with "God Bless America."

In between, the crowd watched a video of Gene Simmons singing "The Army Song," and listened to Toby Keith's "An American Soldier."

I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice,

Oh, and I don't want to die for you,

But if dying's asked of me,

I'll bear that cross with an honor,

'Cause freedom don't come free.

Before the service, hundreds of American flags flapped in the crisp sunshine of an October morning, held by members of the Patriot Guard and others as they fanned out along Maple and formed a ring around the fountains in front of the church.

The crowd holding flags was so quiet the ebb and flow of traffic on Ridge Road could be heard nearly a mile away. The honks from a flock of geese flying overhead echoed sharply in the silence.

The geese flew in a V formation. One spot in the formation was empty.

Moffitt loved the outdoors and everything it offered, those who knew him said at the service. He loved to hunt and fish. He loved to go on hikes. He loved to explore.

He had a sense of adventure that was infectious.

He had a wisdom and values that belied his youth, his pastor and brother said.

Unlike most young people, Pastor John Henry said, Moffitt had friends of all ages. His grandfather was perhaps his best friend of all, and his best hunting buddy was a 58-year-old man who was an accomplished bow hunter despite having only one arm.

In remarks read by Weller at the service, one person after another described Moffitt as a close friend who left an indelible mark on their lives.

Jake Moffitt said his younger brother's philosophy could be well described in just two words: "Chill out."

"If you're not enjoying your life, then you're living your life wrong," Jake said.

Moffitt will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and the service's penultimate feature was a slideshow of images from Arlington to the music of Johnny Cash singing the hymn "I'll Fly Away."

Two weeks before he died, Moffitt talked with his father about what he wanted to do after his enlistment ended.

He dreamed of living in the old homestead house on his grandfather's farm near Alma, working part time on a farm or ranch while he worked toward a degree at Kansas State University.

But he also told his father that there was a 30 percent chance he would re-enlist for a few more years. That gave his father comfort, because it meant he was enjoying what he was doing in Afghanistan.

In the program for the service, Brenda Moffitt wrote that her youngest son grew to like a Bible verse she has adopted as a theme for her life.

It's a passage from Joshua — fitting, Henry said, considering Joshua was "a soldier who fought for his God and for his people."

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

—Joshua 1:9

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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