Indian Country Today
At the East Lawn Palms Mortuary & Cemetery in Tucson, Arizona, 11 years after Chris Moon died, his mother Marsha Begay Moon reflected on his legacy and the beautiful energy he brought into the paths he crossed.
She says continuing to share his story brings her heart joy.
“You could tell there was something unique and special about him,” Marsha said.
When it comes to Chris Moon’s legacy — who he was and the impact he left on this world — the short time with his mother in the cemetery only scratched the surface.
His energy was enormous and welcoming, and described as a “light” by those who knew him.
He had the ability to lift anyone’s spirits, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Chris made people feel included. He was courteous and attentive. A good listener. A thoughtful leader. The type of person who pays close attention to detail. The type to set goals and achieve them, just to continue to set more.
After turning away from a promising baseball career to join the military Christopher James Moon died a celebrated, local hero.
After he died, she clung to an old, sweaty shirt of his and kept his deodorant to remember how he smelled. For five years, the Moon family had lived in the house they had last shared memories with him in but, eventually, it became too much to bear — so they moved.
Marsha would do anything to hear her son’s voice again. Even more so this last year since she’s been battling cancer.
She says this was God’s plan, he’s in God’s hands and she’s constantly sent reminders that things were meant to be this way — no matter how much she wishes otherwise.
Marsha and Brian Moon are proud parents of Chris and their daughter Sunday. Marsha said he loved doting on his niece Semira and would’ve made a great father.
“Everything to him just seemed very natural,” Marsha said.
He went to sniper school and was the youngest one there. He passed his final with a perfect score and in record time.
“This is Chris, this is how humble he is, he doesn't tell me right away. I like have to find out,” Marsha said.
His sniper partner said when they were stalking at sniper school, Chris could sneak up on a target and shoot while not being detected in 40 minutes. It took the rest of them three hours.
“He liked going out in the backyard and he liked going, pretending like he was actually sniping and being a sniper,” Marsha reflected on his younger years.
One thing his parents made sure to pass down to him was a strong sense of responsibility when it came to bearing his family’s name. Marsha knows he took that to heart.
But he also liked being a part of a team, so once the wave of patriotism hit after 9/11, there was no turning back for him.
Chris had always wanted to join the military from a young age. Marsha says he, very specifically, wanted to be a sniper and he’d always talk about it.
He first practiced his sniping skills hunting with a family friend but nothing galvanized him into the military more than 9/11.
“It did have an impact on him. I can remember that. I'd always find drawings of him doing military drawings of Saddam Hussein so it was definitely...I can tell...it was a big part,” Marsha said. ”It did not go away, it was one of the reasons why he really wanted to go and serve.”
A need to serve hit the nation, he felt more compelled than ever before.
He was only 17 years old the first time he attempted to join the military. He asked his dad to sign a waiver so he could enlist and his dad said no because he had too many opportunities.
In 2007, Chris went on to be drafted by the Atlanta Braves but turned down that offer to play baseball in his hometown at the University of Arizona.
He only played one semester in college before he decided to pursue the toughest challenge he could think of.
After making the nine-man roster at the university Chris sat down with coach Andy Lopez and listed the reasons why he wanted to step away from baseball to serve in the military.
His mom recalled all the times he’d play in the backyard with his BB gun playing “sniper.”
His army brothers called him the “light of the unit” and Marsha recalled all the times he asked her to always “pray for my men.”
He noted how the sunset in Afghanistan reminded him of the sunset in Tucson, Arizona.
“I just try to take the good in everything and try to just be happy,” Marsha recalled him saying.
From her perspective it seemed like soldiers were coming home from the war but that wasn’t her son’s reality.
One day he sent her an MSNBC video of gunfire in the area he was in. He got honest about the severity of the situation and told her he was getting fired at every day.
“I knew things were serious when he says, ‘Pray for me.’ And it wasn't even a week after. And then that's when I always told the Lord, I said, ‘I don't want, I don't want military men coming to my door,’” Marsha said. “Before it had been ‘don’t forget to pray for my men’ but toward the end it was ‘don’t forget to pray for me.’”
She couldn’t sleep thinking about him and the war he was engulfed in. Then one hot summer day, a Tucson sheriff arrived at her front door with the news she couldn’t bear to hear herself.
Marsha couldn’t make the call to her husband, so the sheriff did it for her. It took her several days to hear what happened to him after her husband insisted he needed to tell her.
They flew out to him but it was late by the time they got there.
Chris died at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on July 13, 2010.
He survived the explosion from an improvised explosive device, but suffered from complications with two amputated limbs. The surgeries resulted in a blood infection which claimed his life.
Marsha said God affirmed he was with them along the way.
One nurse who cared for Chris in his final hours felt compelled to reach out to his family. His mom was shocked to find out his nurse was also Navajo.
Even more, the nurse ended up moving down the street from Chris’s sister Sunday.
Chris was a sniper with the 82nd airborne. Spc. Moon was decorated. He had a Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge — just to name a few.
More than a thousand people showed up to pay their respects to the hometown hero, including a three-star general from Fort Bragg, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick.
Chris always set out to achieve his goals and had a knack for making his visions a reality.
If he was alive today, his mother thinks he would’ve bought some property to build a home on and would be raising a family while in a law enforcement career — possibly with a SWAT team.
Marsha says he would’ve made a great father and baseball coach for his kids’ teams.
She carries on his legacy through her work with Wreaths Across America and the American Gold Star Mothers, a support group for mothers who have lost their children serving the country which, they say, is an honor nobody wants.
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