SAN ANTONIO (April 20, 2015) -- The film "We Were Soldiers" not only inspired the script of the 2015 U.S. Army Soldier Show "We Serve," it also documented a change in the way survivors of fallen Soldiers were notified of the loss of their loved ones.
Julia Compton Moore, wife of retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, was depicted in the movie by actress Madeleine Stowe. Her efforts in the aftermath of the Battle of Ia Drang Valley prompted the Army to establish survivor support networks and casualty notification teams.
The Ia Drang Battle was the first major ground engagement involving U.S. forces in Vietnam. At that time, the Army had not established an adequate system of notifying the next of kin of fallen warriors. Instead, the telegrams were delivered by taxi cab drivers, as depicted in the movie, "We Were Soldiers."
Unlike the film's depiction, Moore did not actually assume responsibility for the delivery of the telegrams. She did, however, ride along with the cab drivers and assisted in the death notifications, often grieving with the widows and Families of men killed in battle. She also attended the funerals of those who fell under her husband's command. Her efforts were noticed at the highest levels of the Department of Defense, and the examples she set prompted the Army to set up notification teams consisting of a uniformed officer and a chaplain.
A native of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Compton was the only child of Col. Louis J. Compton and Elizabeth Boon Compton. At age 12, she began a lifelong journey of experiencing the separation and risk of loss in war. Her father fought during World War II. Her husband served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. One of her sons fought with the 82nd Airborne Division in Panama and the Persian Gulf War.
She graduated from Chevy Chase Junior College in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before marriage. Wherever her husband was stationed, she served as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader and Cub Scout den mother. She also volunteered with the Red Cross in Army hospitals. She supported daycare centers and worked with wives clubs to ensure that better care was provided for enlisted Soldiers and their Families.
Moore was a major proponent of Army community service organizations that are now a permanent fixture on Army installations to assist Soldiers and their Families as they settle into new duty stations.
Moore died on April 18, 2004, and is buried at the Fort Benning Cemetery in Georgia, near her mother and father and in the middle of 7th Cavalry troops, which her husband led at Ia Drang Valley in 1965.
In 2005, the Army established the Julia Compton Moore Award that recognizes civilian spouses of Soldiers for outstanding contributions to the Army. The citation reads:
"Mrs. Moore's actions to change Pentagon death notification policy in the aftermath of the historic battle of the Ia Drang Valley represents a significant contribution to our nation. Prior to Mrs. Moore's intervention, Pentagon policy was to notify families by a telegram delivered by cab drivers. It serves today as a shining example of one of Mrs. Moore's many contributions to the morale and welfare of the Army Family."
The 2015 U.S. Army Soldier Show honors gold star families, the survivors of fallen warriors, and the support they receive from the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's Survivor Outreach Services.
"We worked with Survivor Outreach Services and actually spoke with five or six of the survivors," said Victor Hurtado, Soldier Show artistic director. "I asked them: 'How do you move on?' And they said, 'We don't use that term. We use the term new normal.' And I said, 'What does that mean?' And they said, 'If we move on, that means we've left them behind. We just find a way to live with them not physically here.'"
Hurtado asked the survivors to put on paper what the "new normal" was between when they learned of their Soldier's death until now. Those words are incorporated into the "We Serve" show.
"It's what happens after the flag," Hurtado said.