FORT MOORE, Ga. — Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore commanded troops in the first major battle of the Vietnam War, a role depicted in a book and a movie. His wife, Julia, was a champion for military spouses and changed the way next of kin are notified when a service member is killed.
In their honor, Fort Benning in Georgia officially became Fort Moore on Thursday as the Defense Department removes Confederate names and symbols from military property. Fort Moore is the only base named for a married couple.
“Together, Hal and Julie Moore embody the very best of our military and the very best of our nation,” Maj. Gen. Curtis Buzzard, Fort Moore’s commander, said at a ceremony marking the change, referring to General Moore by his nickname.
“By honoring them, Fort Moore recognizes the sacrifices of all veterans, especially highlighting those from Vietnam,” he added. “It also reinforces the important role Army spouses and families play in the success of our military.”
The protests over the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 led to broader conversations about racism, and calls to rename sites that honored Confederate officers who fought to preserve slavery and white supremacy. A committee created by Congress to recommend new names for nine U.S. bases selected Fort Moore for Fort Benning, which had been named for a pro-slavery general more than 50 years after the end of the Civil War.
Dana Abella and her husband, Lt. Col. John Abella, have moved 11 times and gone through four deployments. They have three children.
Maj. Bernard Wheeler delayed a deployment several days to see his daughter’s birth in 2018. When he returned, it took her months to get used to his presence.
Alexandria Lyles has experienced five deployments and six moves. Her younger sister, Juliana, has been through four deployments and four moves.
For the first time last week, a military base was named in honor of a spouse, recognizing the full experience of military families.
Caitlin Sampson and her family live at Fort Moore. Her husband, Captain Stephen Sampson, is on the second month of a six-month deployment to Colombia.
Ms. Sampson’s sons, Wyatt and Henry, play with other families on the base, especially the “neighborhood dads,” while their father is away.
The community aspect of life on the base is essential for mothers, who are often sole caregivers. The Moore family lived in a house like this when they were stationed here.
Wyatt told his mother “some people’s daddies leave and they get hurt and they don’t come home,” but she tried to reassure him.
“When I was new to the military, other army spouses took me under their wings, and they taught me everything. It made me love the Army versus resenting how much my husband was gone,” Ms. Sampson said.
Greg Moore looks through family photo albums in Auburn, Ala. Mel Gibson played his father, Hal, in the movie “We Were Soldiers.” Hal and Julie Moore share a gravestone at Fort Moore.
Memorabilia from the Moore family includes the helmet General Moore wore at Ia Drang, swagger sticks given to Ms. Moore for her leadership in the community, the pearls Ms. Moore wore to special events, and a Western Union telegram from Ms. Moore to her parents.
Britnee Wheeler is pregnant with her fifth child. Her husband, Major Wheeler, attends school at an Air Force base in Alabama and is rarely home on weekdays.
Ms. Wheeler works full time in human resources, in addition to starting her own company, and is the main caretaker of her four children.
Major Wheeler will start a new position at Fort Moore in July and will live at home during this assignment.
“In the military, you kind of find that secondary family to help you through it,” Ms. Wheeler said. “And you keep those relationships as you move.”
“He commissioned on a Friday, and we got married on a Sunday,” she recalled. “And we’ve been moving ever since.”
Ms. Sampson led a family workout that deployed partners also practiced at the same time. The great-granddaughters of General Moore visited the base during a renaming ceremony in honor of their family.
Jasper Walls, 6, is starting to learn what life is like for a military child.
Tiffany Walls’s husband, Private First Class Justin Walls, just completed basic training and has been away from the family for months.
Although Jasper was excited to try the chow hall, Ms. Walls finds the uncertainty of military life stressful because she likes to plan ahead.
Ms. Walls and her son are staying with friends and at motels until they find out where Mr. Walls will be stationed in July.
“I kind of feel like a single mom in some ways and have a whole new respect for military spouses,” Ms. Walls said.