OKLAHOMA CITY — These are the fresh recruits. They come from all over the United States. Most of them are teenagers taking a last breath before entering basic training and military life. They gather at the YMCA Military Welcome Center and Will Rogers Airport in OKC. They are assisted, in many ways, by another small army of volunteers including Vicky LaHue. “Its a comfort zone, a place to come, or just a place to relax,” she says describing the center for active military and families.
She’s here a couple of days a week cleaning up and talking up the new and old soldiers who float through. Most of the time she doesn’t bother mentioning why she comes here herself, but today is different. She recognizes something in the faces seated around a table and, suddenly, the story of another Army recruit spills out. “I had the faith that he was doing what he was supposed to do,” she says.
Gary Moore joined the Army in 2007. He wanted to be a police officer. He was an MP Corporal in Iraq helping navigate a night-time convoy in March of 2009 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his truck. Gary never made it to the hospital. His mother recalls his fellow soldiers telling her the story, “He must have seen it. Officers told me he tried to shield the driver.”
He used to carry a Bible with him everywhere. Vicky knows her son’s faith also carried him to a better place, but it still wasn’t easy. “You just live day-to-day,” she says. “You can tell that people are very unsure about what to say when you tell them that he’s in a better place. Well, he is in a better place but that’s not where I want him. I’d rather he was here with me.”
About a year ago Vicky says the spirit led her to what, for some, might seem a strange place to heal. She understands why there are those haunted by the faces of fallen friends and family, but she seeks them out here as a living reminder. “Personally, I feel that it’s a moment when you get the opportunity to see you’re son or daughter, for that brief moment, alive.”
The Welcome Center was put here to give rest and comfort to travelling military. For some the future in uncertain, but for Vicky LaHue the future offers hope. “I think of them,” she says. “Because their life is moving forward and I must move forward. It helps remind me that I’m not to fall back. Gary wouldn’t want me to fall back.”