From the Marines to Moffatt: ‘There’s always a next step’
United States Marine Corps veteran Randy Moore, who serves as general manager for Aramark Higher Education Services on the Erskine campus, is seen most frequently in Moffatt Dining Hall. During a chapel service Jan. 22, he spoke with sincerity and humor about how the course of his life has been altered by circumstances, prayer, and obedience to God.
Moore joked about his early childhood, saying, “I had a ‘drug’ problem—I was ‘drug’ to church every Sunday.” He recalled sitting in “big church,” where, perhaps afflicted with undiagnosed ADHD “or some other letters of the alphabet,” he received elbow nudges from his parents warning him to be still.
But Moore’s parents separated when he was in the fourth grade, and his life changed forever. Once they split up, “I had no church life,” he said.
During middle school and high school, he tried being a people pleaser, since he had seen his father as a “controlling person” and knew he “had to be a different kind of man.” But in a divorce situation shadowed by custody disputes, pleasing both his parents was impossible. Moore’s mother remarried and he moved to a farm with his mother and stepfather.
When Moore was a senior in high school, his mother hoped he would go to college, his stepfather wanted him to train as a farrier, and his father wanted him to become a welder. He decided to join the United States Marine Corps. “I was running,” he said.
Moore said he “smiled and laughed my way through boot camp,” angering his drill instructor. Because he broke his arm, his time in boot camp was prolonged by a few weeks. Also owing to his broken arm, instead of being assigned to the infantry, Moore was told he would be a food service specialist and was sent to Camp Johnson in Jacksonville, N.C., for training. His first assignment was to Camp Lejeune, and subsequently he was sent to Spain, Italy, and Israel. “Mostly we just had a good time,” he said, recalling playing basketball with orphans in Barcelona and spending time with members of the Israeli military.
The young Marine had his first experience of a combat zone in the conflict first designated Desert Shield, then Desert Storm, then Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Things got real,” Moore said. “Our job was to help secure [an airport]—1,100 of us against approximately 25,000 Iraqi soldiers. We were told, ‘Ninety percent of you are going to die.’”
As he absorbed this disturbing news, Moore asked God for help. “That was the first time I remember praying. It was a prayer of desperation—‘Let us make it home to our families and loved ones,’” he said.
What happened next was remarkable. “We secured the airport without a shot being fired,” he recalled. “The Iraqi solders did not want to fight. They had been treated badly. They were starving. They just wanted to eat.”
When his time at Camp Lejeune ended in 1993, Moore enlisted for three more years and was sent to Parris Island, S.C., where, he said with a smile, “I just could not get used to the smell of swamp gas!”
Moore did not realize at the time that Parris Island was not simply another assignment. “It was setting me up for the beginning of the rest of my life.”
During his time at Parris Island, he met his future wife, who was from Anderson, a city near Due West, and one day, Moore said, “She finally popped the question—she said, ‘Will you go to church with me?'”
Moore tried various excuses to get out of going to church, and even threw a “full-grown-man tantrum” in the Anderson Mall where she had gone with him to purchase some clothes for him to wear to church.
When he actually went to church, he found he enjoyed it.
After that first prayer during the his time in Iraq, Moore had begun praying, but his prayers were very general. He began to sense that God was calling him to be more specific in his prayer life. He started spending the first hour of his day reading a devotional and praying, even “journaling on my fancy iPad,” he said.
Although Moore believes he became a better man through his more intense prayer time, “it wasn’t enough,” he said. “There’s always a next step.”
The next step in Moore’s career was leaving the Marines in 1996 and taking a job at a food-court restaurant in the mall. He had shown up for an interview at Erskine, but had been told the position was filled. Eventually, he was hired, but he had a hard time dealing with college students, having come from a military background. “I quit three times!” he said. Over the years, he came to enjoy working with students.
The most recent step in Moore’s Christian walk was that, having developed a regular and focused prayer life, he sensed that the Lord was calling him to share his story with others. “You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to trust God,” he said. “We can be evangelists just by sharing our stories.”
This presented a challenge for him. “I prayed for strength to share my story. I kept resisting.” When he received the invitation to speak at Erskine, he still had misgivings. “I was still thinking, ‘Can’t I just share my story one-on-one instead of speaking to the entire student body?’”
Moore added with a laugh, “The struggle is real! Even this morning, I was still bargaining with God.”
But there’s always a next step, and Randy Moore plans to keep taking those next steps, one by one.