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  • Writer's pictureRobert Moore

Memorial Day

Updated: May 24

A word about that tag on my shoe.

Every once in a while, I'll be sitting around camp or in town and someone will remark,'Old habits are hard to break, huh? And I'll see that they are looking at my hiking shoe - specifically at the Dog Tag weaved into the laces of my right shoe.

In the early days of my Army career, we were taught to put an indestructible metal tag on our shoes in case the worst would happen and some poor dude from Graves Registration would have to try to get all the right pieces back to our family. This was before dNA and all that stuff. My dog tag was my 'forever ID' and every service member carried a pair. Often one on each foot - the thinking was that if we got blown up.....well you get it. My dog tags were the most personal gear that I owned.

But the dog tag that I wear isn't mine - it belongs to my best friend from high school - nearly 40 years ago. He was "most likely to succeed".

And I was "most likely to be a repeat offender". He went off to VMI and and became a Marine Officer - a Marine Infantry Officer. His name was Minter Bailey Ralston IV. His dad was a Marine and his Grandad was a WWII Marine in the Pacific Theater. He was born to be a Marine.

He was tall and fit and handsome. He was an Eagle Scout and the best man I've ever known.

He served the country for over 30 years. He retired as a Colonel - a lofty rank for a Marine.

He had been married for decades but had had his son later on life. He lived close to me in Charlotte after retirement and we saw each other frequently. But his health began to deteriorate and he had trouble with his balance and later with speech.

After many medical tests - he got the worst possible news. It was terminal and he would get much worse. He had served on many of the installations that I had - with big,open burn pits and uncontrolled chemical dumps.

Mint was as vibrant and healthy as anyone I've ever known. But, in a season, he succumbed to a rare brain cancer that was inoperable.

He is in my heart and mind every day when I contend with the annual heartbreak of Memorial Day. He didn't die on the battlefield but he died because he was on the battlefield fighting for his beloved country.

Dale Beatty was a force to be reckoned with as a young sergeant. Respected by his peers, subordinates and senior officers. An impeccable soldier - in both bearing and integrity. He was deployed to Iraq while I was there in 2004.

He was an Artilleryman in the North Carolina National Guard and had already contributed to the state in multiple hurricane responses and other NG duties. He was selfless and loved by his soldiers.

Dale Beatty

He was on patrol with another one of my dear friends when they hit an antitank mine while riding in a lightly armored truck. The blast took both of his legs and nearly killed him instantly. But, he fought through multiple surgeries and after months at Walter Reed - he learned to walk on prosthetics and embraced his role as a victor not a victim.

After returning home to NC, his unit members, church members and other friends helped build him an accessible house at no cost. So, he and my buddy who was riding with him on that fateful day decided to pay it forward. They would go on to found Purple Heaet Homes - a nonprofit that I work directly with to this day - over 20 years after the mine strike.

Dale went back to Walter Reed for his last surgery - just to clean up a little scar tissue on a stump. He died unexpectedly the following weekend when a blood clot went to his lungs from the surgery.

He didn't die on the battlefield but he died because he was on the battlefield fighting for us. A true hero who gave his life for this country - for you and me.

For this Memorial Day, please remember that we are honoring our war dead, as they say. But keep in mind that they didn't all die on the battlefield. Many of my combat vet freinds that I have lost died at their own hands. They lost the battle years later in the trenches of their own mind. Invisible wounds - every bit as deadly.

Thank a family member of one of the fallen. They will carry the loss for the rest of their lives on this earth - every day. Use this sacred holiday to express your thanks for their service - for their loss.

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May 24

Great story Rob. Your journey on all fronts continues to inspire us all. I pray for you on a regular basis but the last week of each month is what I signed up for during your sending-off celebration. This week has been a time of more focused prayer for you. Please know you are consistently covered in this way from my corner of the world. May the wind continue to be at your back my friend!!


Chris Jolly
Chris Jolly
May 24

Rob, very well written! God’s grace and peace be with you!

“To those in uniform serving today and to those who have served in the past, we honor you today and every day.”- Unknown

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