SHERIDAN — Fred Moye’s time in the military was anything but typical.
He joined the National Guard at 17, switched branches halfway through his first years of service, then 20 years later re-enlisted in the National Guard and found himself in the middle of Iraq at the age of 46.
A self-described “Army brat,” Moye grew up surrounded by military veterans. His uncles all fought in World War II while another served in Vietnam. But perhaps the biggest influence on Moye’s future in the military was his father, a World War II veteran.
“I think I always knew I was going to spend at least one hitch in the military,” Moye said.
Moye joined the National Guard while he was still in high school, attending boot camp the summer between his junior and senior years.
He had hoped to travel the world with the National Guard but that dream was quickly shattered with post-Vietnam realities as most National Guard units stayed home.
But at 22, Moye and a fellow Guardsman had the wild idea of leaving the Guard to join the Marines. Four days later, he and his friend were on their way to boot camp for the Marine Corps.
“I remember standing there getting yelled at by a Marine drill instructor thinking, ‘Fred, what the hell did you do to yourself?’” Moye said laughing.
But the transition into the Marines paid off. Moye spent most of his time in the Marines aboard the U.S.S. Midway, which was one of the only duty assignments outside of the U.S. at that time. He spent two years in the Pacific Ocean aboard the carrier.
By the time his service in the Marines had expired in the mid-1980s, Moye was ready for a break from the military. He grew his hair long, learned the bass guitar and began playing in a bar band.
But that life plan came to a screeching halt after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and Moye was among many who joined the military following the terrorist attacks.
“War is typically fought by young men, but it should be everybody’s conflict,” Moye said of his decision to re-enlist.
Within six months of re-enlisting in the National Guard in November 2005, 20 years after he retired from the Marines, Moye received orders that his unit would be deployed to Iraq.
His unit eventually made their way to Tikrit where it carried out escort missions during which the soldiers were commonly at risk due to improvised explosive devices.
“I was never in a vehicle that was shot at or blown up, but every time we would pull out, something would happen,” Moye said.
At 46 years old, Moye was one of the oldest members in his unit, but he didn’t have near the amount of combat experience that many of his brothers and sisters in arms did. Still, Moye built friendships with those who were born around the time his first tour of duty had expired.
“When you are in combat, you don’t think about politics or anything else,” Moye said. “All you think about is making sure you and your buddy make it home safe.”
Moye eventually retired from the National Guard in 2011 when he was 50 years old.
Though Moye said he does not plan on re-enlisting in the military again, his service to his country is far from over.
He currently works in the dietary department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Sheridan.
After seeing many veterans suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after their service, Moye has decided to attend Sheridan College to work toward becoming a counselor for veterans.
Moye, now in his mid-50s, said he is still several years away from earning his degree, but age hasn’t stopped him before and it won’t stop him now.
“I may be totally grey by the time I get my (bachelor’s) degree, but I want to finish,” Moye said.