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Mar. 24-27: Cherry Field
If you have the chance, read Brian Mockenhaupt’s first-hand account of how Chris Moon died while fighting in the Arghandab Valley in 2010 (The Last Patrol/The Atlantic/Nov. 2010). It’s a very difficult read but a must if you want to get to know a true American hero even better. You see, we all had the story wrong. Moon did not “step on an IED on a roadside” – he was targeted..
Specialist Moon was a successful sniper in what his platoon called “The Devil’s Playground:”
“A thunderclap rocked the tree line, and the concussion punched our ears and rolled through our chests. Beside us, along the canal, a cloud of smoke and dirt billowed 100 feet into the air, far above the trees, against a cloudless blue sky. “IED! IED! IED!” a soldier barked over the radio. Knollinger, leading the element along the road, ran into the field between the road and the canal, toward the explosion, yelling into the hand mike clipped to his vest. “I need a sitrep! I need a sitrep!” Soldiers answered, one by one, save for the two snipers with the patrol. “Viper 4,” Knollinger said. “Are you okay? Viper 4!” Sgt. Christopher Rush responded, dazed, his voice slow. “No, I’m not okay.” Beside him, his partner, Specialist Christopher Moon, lay in a crater five feet wide and two feet deep, his legs missing. The triggerman, hidden in the pomegranate orchard, had blown the bomb under Moon, the last man. Gerhart was 75 feet ahead on the canal trail. He ran back, past a few soldiers who had been knocked to the ground, uninjured. He knelt beside Moon, 20 years old, a high-school baseball star who had been courted by the Atlanta Braves, but had chosen the Army. I’d met Moon the day before, atop an earthen barrier beside Guard Tower 2 at the combat outpost, where he had squatted on two ammunition cans and barely moved, perched like a monk for a two-hour stretch. He rested his rifle on an iron beam and watched a compound a half mile south. He’d killed two fighters there earlier, as good at sniping as he’d been at baseball.”
Moon would eventually succumb to his injuries a few days later on July 13, 2010 at the US Army Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.
Now, if you can, go back a few years to the spring on 2007 and you will see a much younger man. A boy really. You will see where the Atlanta Braves drafted him in the 35th round but you will also see that he went unsigned.
Instead, the consensus Southern Arizona 2007 High School Player of the Year signed up with Andy Lopez and the University of Arizona and took part in fall drills and competition. But Moon did not feel comfortable in his role as a star athlete when he felt his true calling was to serve his country.
So, like Pat Tillman, Moon gave up a promising future in a game played by boys for a chance to stand on an “earthen barrier” somewhere as a man in a country far away with a rifle in his hands where a bat used to be.
Who does something like that?
Heroes don’t hit balls over fences.
Moon was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge.
And, yes, all of his baseball and other youth sports awards were part of his development so those should not be forgotten. He earned them all.
He also earned our gratitude as did his parents Marsha and Brian Moon. As I have written before, the price they paid for our gratitude was much too high and it continues to be more than we can ever repay as a country or as a friend.
The only way we can even try is to honor his memory.
Every year at this time, Tucson High holds a baseball invitational in his name. It is a small gesture but an important one. When you honor a hero like Moon, you honor the countless other men and women who have given everything so that we may play a game, coach a game, watch a game and even write about one.
Even the simplest of freedoms should not be taken for granted.
There is also an effort to raise $60,000 to erect a life-sized statue of Moon at Cherry Field. To our knowledge, there is no other statue dedicated to former high school athletes who have died serving our country.
If you feel inclined to help with this effort you can go to the gofundme.com account set up for this purpose.
CHRIS MOON SCHEDULE
Ralston Valley (CO)
San Marcos (CA)
Bishop Gorman (NV)
Arvada West (CO)
Tuesday, Mar. 24
11 am Tucson vs Rampart
11 am Flowing Wells vs Arvada West
2 pm Rincon vs Ralston Valley
2 pm Flowing Wells vs Boulder
5 pm Tucson vs Pomona
5 pm San Marcos vs Bishop Gorman
8 pm Arvada West vs Boulder
8 pm Rampart vs Pomona
Wednesday, Mar. 25
11 am Pomona vs Boulder
11 am Ralston vs Bishop
2 pm Rampart vs Arvada West
5 pm Rincon vs San Marcos
5 pm Tucson vs Flowing Wells
8 pm Bishop vs Rincon
8 pm San Marcos vs Ralston Valley
Thursday, Mar. 26
Bracket Play starts at 8 am
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AZPreps365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com