Fort Hood Soldiers, family members help search for missing Texas girl
March 25, 2011
By Rachel Parks
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Three months ago Hailey Dunn vanished from Colorado City, Texas, seemingly without a trace. Initially, volunteers poured into the town to help search for the 13-year-old cheerleader, but as days turned to weeks, and then months, the number of volunteers dwindled.
When Misty Moody, who grew up in Colorado City and still has contacts in the West Texas town, heard of the stalled search efforts, she knew she and her husband, Sgt. Brian Moody, could help. The Moodys shared their proposal to join in the search effort with Soldiers and spouses in the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Missile Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, who responded with full support.
"My husband mentioned it to the guys here, and within two days, we had 28 people," Misty said.
The volunteers included Soldiers and spouses who traveled to West Texas the first weekend in March to take part in a search for the missing teen.
March 18 and 19, the group rejoined the search effort.
Misty said the terrain the group covered in both searches was difficult.
"It's West Texas so it's nothing but bushes and cactus," she said. "There are some old ravines, some dry ravines that we're searching."
In addition to the danger of snakes and the unpredictable Texas weather, the group faced the difficult emotions that accompany a search for a missing child.
"I think it was a shocker for some of the Soldiers last time. It was emotional," Misty said.
Spc. Andres Lopez, Alpha Battery, 4-5 Air Missile Defense Artillery Regiment, was one of the Soldiers who took part in both searches.
"It was actually very emotional," Lopez said. "I wish we could have stayed longer, but, of course, we have to get back here to do what we have to do."
The skills and knowledge that Soldiers brought to the search effort impressed those who worked with them, according to 1st Sgt. Quinnus Caldwell, Battery A, 4-5 Air Missile Defense Artillery Regiment.
He said after the group returned from the first trip, he received an email from search organizers thanking the 4-5 Air Missile Defense Artillery Regiment volunteers for the quiet professionalism they brought to the search for Hailey.
Caldwell said he thinks the civilian volunteers were impressed by the volunteers from Fort Hood.
"They know the job of a Soldier and the sacrifice that we make," Caldwell said. "It just makes the civilian population want to come out and help even more."
He added that he was impressed by the volunteers who traveled to Colorado City.
"I think it's phenomenal," he said. "It's been a total team effort all the way across."
The dedication of the group also drew the attention of members of Hailey's family. Misty said the group received a phone call from Hailey's father, Clint Dunn, after the first search.
"He called and personally thanked us," she said.
Each of the volunteers said they had their own reasons for joining in the search.
Sgt. Payce Peterson, Battery A, 4-5 Air Missile Defense Artillery Regiment and his wife, Cpl. Amy Peterson, Battery B, joined the second search March 18 and 19.
"It seemed like the right thing to do," he said.
For the Moodys, the case hit close to home, not only because of Misty's ties to the area, but also because the couple has four children of their own.
"If one of my children came up missing, I would want everyone helping me," Misty said.
The volunteers with 4-5 Air Missile Defense Artillery Regiment plan to continue making the 500-mile roundtrip to help search for Hailey for as long as they can, or until there is some sort of resolution in the case.
"It's not just Hailey that needs help," Misty said as she noted that hundreds of children around the U.S. who disappear every month.
Anyone interested in volunteering or participating in the search for Hailey can get more information at the Laura Recovery Center website at www.lrcf.net/missing/1650/1650.html.