Karl Terry:PNT Managing Editor
Deward Moon is the kind of guy you might want around if you had to fix dinner for 30 or 40. But what the Portales veteran wants most is to be the kind of guy his fellow veterans can depend on for anything.
Friday afternoon he was where he is most Friday afternoon’s, helping prepare the weekly dinner at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9515 in Portales.
As he applied cloves and glaze to a ham he was preparing, the 58-year-old Moon expressed his pleasure at being in the kitchen.
“This is one of the things we enjoy is cooking,” said Moon. “We come down here and all work together.”
Born at the old Portales General Hospital, Moon says he’s lived in Portales all his life “except for a few stints off in foreign countries, like Texas,” he jokes.
Moon spent time in Southeast Asia as well, completing three tours of duty, from 1966-70 with the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He served aboard ships just off the coast for most of his time there.
“We provided gunfire support to troops onshore,” said Moon. “We were only about 400 yards out.”
Moon put his electronics background, gained in the Navy, to work as soon as he got home to Portales. He went to work for Joe Blair at B&B TV repairing appliances and electronics for 15 years.
He tried the restaurant business briefly but after that didn’t work out, he wound up in Lubbock, Texas in 1987. He later lived in Austin, Texas where he worked for a company that did contract repair work for Sears.
By 1995 he was back in Lubbock and very active at the VFW post there, becoming post commander just after the millennium.
It was in 2003 that Moon faced the toughest challenge of his life, though. He was on the job in Lubbock and suffered a stroke. Moon says his recovery is like learning to do things over again.
“It’s not like guys (veterans) coming back missing a limb,” said Moon. “To me, what they’re trying to overcome is something much harder.
“It’s proving out,” Moon said of his recovery. “But it’s sure not being as nice as I want it to be.”
Moon serves as membership chair for the local VFW post, a duty he’s taken seriously for a long time, both here and in Texas. He’s won VFW recruiting awards for the state of Texas and Past Commander Tim Marsh has nominated him as a national recruiter for VFW.
“When he came back from Texas we put him to work,” said Marsh.
Marsh says Moon’s abilities in recruiting come to him naturally through his strong will.
“When he decides he wants to do something or get something done, there’s no backing up with him,” said Marsh. “It takes a special person to get out there and find veterans who need help. Deward is that way.”
Moon says he’s taken a lot of guff about how hard he works to recruit membership, and he admits that right after his stroke he was guilty recruiting an ambulance driver that was transferring him from a Lubbock hospital to Amarillo. After his stroke he continued as Post Commander in Lubbock without ever missing a meeting.
“If I hadn’t had something to do, I could have just become a vegetable, said Moon.
Moon still enjoys horseback riding, shooting and reading as pastimes but he says for now he’s put the new set of roller skates he has aside. His greatest passion, though, is cooking, he says, as he pulls out his cell phone to display a photo of his big mobile smoker grill.
“I love to cook, everybody teases me about my cooker,” said Moon. “But if you enjoy what you’re doing you’ve got it made.”
“Both of us like to cook, so we’re always debating something,” said Marsh. “We haven’t killed anybody yet. They keep coming back.”
Moon says he’s looking to get combat veterans from all wars involved in VFW activities.
“Especially these guys that are returning now,” said Moon. “Some of us that were in Vietnam don’t want to see this be another Vietnam. We don’t want to see the loss of life showing up like it did in Vietnam.”
Asked about his feelings on the Vietnam War, Moon is pretty matter of fact. “We were following our orders but we weren’t allowed to finish the job we started.”
He has similar feelings about Iraq and is concerned that 2,000 American troops have died there. “I think we needed to finish the job.”
He knows he has a tough job ahead of him in recruiting the younger generation of veterans returning from Iraq and those who fought in Desert Storm. He notes that they’re young and its a very different lifestyle for them. But you get the feeling Moon’s up to the task.
From his point of view, things are changing for the better for veterans these days. He sees that things are much better now than after Vietnam, as far as public perception. But it still bothers him some that interest in the programs the VFW and other veterans organizations undertake aren’t better utilized. He cites local scholarship programs that have recently had low participation.
“I think if parents knew about them the scholarships would be more apt to be utilized,’ said Moon. “I’d like to see this one post really get back into the community.”
For Moon, who’s divorced, the VFW is family.
“It’s an elite club, you had to be part of a unit in a combat zone,” says Moon of the VFW. “A veteran becomes much closer than a brother, because they are the one’s you want watching your back.”