On Sept. 4, Jerry Moody was admitted into Wallace Thomson Hospital and diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After a series of tests, doctors also discovered a hole in his esophagus. Doctors later found an infection in his colon and gallbladder. The infection was quickly spreading and he also suffered from an allergic reaction to his medication which caused him to have seizures.
Doctors informed Moody and his family he was not expected to live more than a few days – if even through the night.
Tammy Moody – Jerry’s wife – was consumed with worry about her son, Michael, who is a soldier in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Afghanistan – more than 7,000 miles away from his father. Tammy contacted the Red Cross and notified an Army Commander that Michael needed to come home immediately to be with his father. Tammy was in a panic, doing everything she could to get her son home for a much-needed embrace with his father.
From his hospital bed, Jerry Moody consistently repeated, “I’m holding on for my baby.”
While his father fought for his life in Union, Michael Moody was fighting for his own life and attempting to get out of the Afghanistan war zone and on the first plane home.
“Everybody was trying to make things happen as quickly as they could,” Michael said, “But every single thing you do, the military has a form for it.”
Michael was taken from the base where he was stationed to the biggest base in Afghanistan. He was scheduled to fly – along with one other soldier, who was also on emergency leave – from Kuwait International Airport to Washington, D.C.
Without prior notice, the young men were held up for 24 hours at the base while awaiting a military flight to Kuwait.
“Our LNO (liaison officer) gave us a list of things we were not allowed to do when we got to Kuwait,” Michael said. “We went and bought some civilian clothes to wear to the airport real quick.”
Michael also said even though the liberated Kuwait is supposed to be a green zone, members of the U.S. Military are still targeted there.
When the soldiers arrived in Kuwait the next day, they were immediately dropped off at Kuwait International by their American contact. After some difficulty as a result of language barriers, the two soldiers encountered another delay. They were informed they missed their flight by one hour and the next flight to Washington, D.C. was another 24 hours away. After some difficulty contacting the U.S. Embassy or their American contact, the two soldiers took a taxi to a hotel in the middle of Kuwait where they would stay the night before flying home.
After being taken on an undesirably scenic cab ride the previous night, the two young men decided to walk from the hotel to the airport which they had been told was a five minute drive. The soldiers embarked on a strenuous trek in civilian clothes with Afghan shawls on their heads, all while carrying U.S. Army bags loaded with 80 pounds of cargo in the 120-degree heat.
The two soon realized, however, the heat was the least of their problems.
“We started to hear pop shots. Pop. Pop-pop-pop,” Michael said, “and thought, ‘There’s no way we’re getting shot at.’”
Small clouds of dirt started flying up around them as the shots drew closer. The two unarmed soldiers who were attempting to get home to attend to family emergencies had, in fact, become targets. They darted out of sight – beneath an underpass – until the shots ceased. Then, they ran straight to Kuwait International Airport, which according to Michael, turned out to be about 10 klicks (a common military term for kilometers) – or 6.2 miles – from the hotel.
After surviving the unexpected attack, Michael’s next stop was Washington, D.C.; then Charlotte Douglas Airport; then Wallace Thomson.
On Thursday, Sept. 9, Tammy contacted a constituent service representative in U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s office, as well as Union County Sheriff David Taylor. Taylor told the upset mother to let him know as soon as her son arrived in Charlotte and assured her he would have him picked up and brought home.
“She said they didn’t have any family members that could go pick him up and she couldn’t leave her husband’s side,” Taylor said. “I was glad to be able to help. I know it’s a tremendous strain on the son and the family.”
DeMint’s staff was still working toward the goal on Friday and Tammy Moody was told DeMint would be calling someone at the Pentagon in an attempt to make some headway. On Saturday morning – Sept. 11 – an Army Commander notified Tammy her son was in Washington, D.C., and would be arriving in Charlotte that evening.
Keeping his promise, Taylor dispatched Deputy Russell Roark to pick Michael up and bring him home to Union. Michael Moody arrived at Wallace Thomson Hospital around 9:30 p.m., wearing his uniform which included his recently-earned Combat Action Badge – earned for participation in a fire fight.
He immediately gave his father the hug he had been waiting for.
Michael spoke of his appreciation for Deputy Roark.
“Roark was a big help,” he said. “That was the smoothest part of it all. He got me back to Union stat.”
“I can’t say thank you enough to Sen. Jim DeMint, his staff, Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Roark,” Tammy said. “They did more than I would have ever expected. Sheriff Taylor was watching for our call on his home and cell phones. He even had his wife watching for our call.”
“I’ve never met the man, but I’m sure glad I voted for him,” Jerry Moody said, thankful for having his son at his bedside.
“I have never met them,” Taylor said. “I probably wouldn’t know them today if I saw them but to me, that’s what it is to be a public servant. It’s not all about putting people in jail; it’s about being there to help people in time of need.”
Taylor could empathize with a portion of the Moody family’s struggle. A couple of years ago, a nephew of Taylor’s was delayed in getting back from Afghanistan after being burned in an accident.
“Imagine being that far away from home,” Taylor said. “That’s such a tough situation.”
On Thursday, Sept. 16, Jerry Moody’s condition – on paper – appeared to be unchanged but Jerry himself did not.
“Dr. Wentz gave me a couple of days to make it and I’ve made it over a week now,” he said.
“The first few days, he didn’t even know where he was,” Tammy added.
Jerry’s spirits were surprisingly high and his words were optimistic as his son stayed close to his side in his hospital room.
“I’m improving,” he said. “I’m liable to fool them and walk out of here before long.”
Jerry did say he was ready for his stay in a hospital bed to be over.
“I am ready to get out of here though. Either that way,” he said, pointing to the door, “or that way.”
He pointed upward.
As of Wednesday, Sept. 22, Jerry Moody was released from Wallace Thomson Hospital and was at his home.
According to Tammy, his condition has not improved.