El Cajon Veteran of the Year honored at City Hall
Raymond L. Moody is a remarkable man, courageous and compassionate, accomplished and humble. He has been an El Cajon resident for three decades. He served in the U.S. Navy for 23 years, retiring in 1966 as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate. His active-duty career spanned the major conflicts of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Now 90 years of age, he is still a veteran serving other veterans, spending time each day at Miramar National Cemetery to assist grieving family members of military veterans. Fittingly, Moody was chosen as the first-ever City of El Cajon Veteran of the Year.
Members of the El Cajon City Council presented the award to Moody during the regular council meeting on Dec. 13. El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells spoke briefly, outlining Moody’s record of service and achievement, before showing Moody’s name as the first engraved on the permanent El Cajon Veteran of the Year plaque.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Moody said during the presentation ceremony. “I am the only surviving member of the 500 shipmates I served with, as far as I know.
In an interview after the ceremony, Moody described his reaction to the honor, “It’s very hard to believe this is happening. I just wish my wife, Barbara, could be here.” Barbara passed away a little over three years ago, and she inspires his continuing volunteer activities. Barbara Moody was also a Navy veteran, laid to eternal rest at Miramar National Cemetery.
“Six of us who lost spouses get together every day at Miramar. We pray and cry together,” Moody continued. “Barbara and I were married for 67 years, two months. Every moment with her was precious. I told her that.”
Moody translates his own grieving back into service to others experiencing such loss. “I was just a plain old country boy from Mansfield, Missouri,” he said. He further observed that he is “overwhelmed with compassion” for other people he encounters at Miramar National Cemetery. His “staunch Christian” religious faith is a mainstay in his life, he stated.
“I had two good, marvelous careers,” Moody recounted. After retiring from the Navy, he became a civil servant with the Department of the Navy. His title was chief of physical security specialist and crime prevention officer. He worked at the 32nd Street Naval Station, with particular tasking to provide safety advice to women and children while their husbands and fathers were deployed. He retired from that position when he was 65, and he and Barbara spent about 10 years traveling around the country.
Moody is an active member of El Cajon American Legion Post 303, the local organization that nominated him to receive the first Veteran of the Year award. And Moody still pipes announcements on his Boatswain’s pipe for Legion Post activities, piping the “Attention, All Hands,” call to begin meetings. He also serves the Post as assistant chaplain.
A year ago, Moody participated in the Wreaths Across America effort, purchasing $500 of wreaths to adorn the graves of veterans. “American Legion El Cajon Post 303 takes great pride in counting Chief Boatswain’s Mate Ray Moody among our membership,” stated Wayne P. Clark, Junior Past Commander of Post 303, in nomination papers for Moody to be selected.
According to Rob Tade, adjutant for Post 303, the City of El Cajon Veterans’ Commission recommended creation of the annual Veteran of the Year award, and the city council approved the action. The person so honored must be a military veteran and resident of El Cajon. Moody received further acknowledgement and recognitions during the ceremony from Congressman Duncan D. Hunter and Congresswoman Susan Davis, from the veterans’ commission and from Post 303. Wes Schermann, Commander of El Cajon American Legion Post 303, noted that when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred, Moody attempted to reenlist but was told he was too old.
Moody said that he had both wonderful and awful experiences while in the Navy. He traversed the Panama Canal three times and sailed around the world three times. However, in Moody’s view, “The Gestapo and the Japanese, especially the kamikazes, were terrible.” He witnessed the aftermath of wartime atrocities committed against prisoners by the Japanese. “We took no prisoners,” he said. “This wasn’t the people, though. They didn’t know what was being done.”
Moody related that he is in exceptionally good health. He takes no medications and uses only eye drops. He has the blood pressure and pulse rate of a fit adolescent. Does he have a secret prescription for healthy longevity? He engages in no regular physical exercise, selects a good diet of foods he likes but restricts his intake of meat at meals to a palm-sized portion.