Local veteran remembers time in Marines
Looking back at his six years of service in the Marine Corps, VFW Post 10818 member Matt Mooi, 30, remembered the good things along with the bad, while also making sure to mention the names of his brothers in arms who were lost during his two tours in Iraq and one mission in Africa.
Having been in the Marine Corps also gave Mooi a better sense of how important it is to honor those who went before him as well as those who are currently serving in the United States military. And not just on those few days a year that are set aside to remember the many veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and peace.
“I like that we have a couple holidays to remember and recognize those who have served but at the same time it shouldn’t be just that one day,” Mooi said. “We live the lifestyle that we live because of the sacrifices of those guys.”
Although his time in the Marine Corps wasn’t easy, Mooi credits his family support system and his fiancee Danielle Urban for helping him through the tough times and helping him adjust back to civilian life now that his time in the military is over.
“I have been with Danielle since I went to Africa and through my second tour,” Mooi said. “It wasn’t easy to be away from her or my family for as long as I was, but I really appreciate her and her support through those tough times. I love her to death. We’ve been engaged since I got out of the military in 2008, but we haven’t been able to find the right time to get married.
“But I just purchased a house here in town and things are starting to settle down, so hopefully we can get things back on track soon.”
Mooi currently works as a switchman with Union Pacific Railroad in South St. Paul. Urban is a member of the Post 10818 Ladies Auxiliary.
Mooi, who is originally from Frankfurt, Ill., committed to joining the Marine Corps before he graduated from Lincoln-Way High School in New Lenox, Ill., in the spring of 2002. “I was already talking to the recruiter before 9/11 happened, so that wasn’t really a reason for me to join up,” Mooi said. “When I was 17 I started to talk with the recruiter and I had been going to pool functions, which get you ready for boot camp, and I had been doing that since June. But after Sept. 11 you kind of knew what you were getting into at that point.”
In a matter of four days, Mooi graduated from high school, celebrated his mother’s birthday, then his own, before flying to San Diego to start basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot there.
Being in the Corps
Mooi’s first tour in Iraq started in 2004 and went through 2005, with him starting out as a lance corporal before being promoted to corporal, as well as a team and patrol leader, when he went back to Iraq for his second tour in 2007-2008.
“My role in the Marine Corps changed over time, since I was in the Corps for six years,” Mooi said. “I started out going through boot camp and then going through the School of Infantry, since I was an infantryman. Then you get to your platoon and start out low on the totem pole. I went to Iraq where I was just a lance corporal, and I was a SAW (squad automatic weapon) gunner on my fire team, so I carried my squad’s automatic weapon.”
Mooi made the move to vehicle driver after a short while because he enjoyed driving the humvee and was good at it.
“I didn’t get to man the gun too much because they ended up giving me an M16 and had me driving the vehicle,” Mooi said. “So, I was buzzing around in humvees most of the time.”
Between his two tours, Mooi took part in a humanitarian mission in Nigeria where he provided security for a group of Air Force doctors while they helped aid the local populace.
“As an infantryman, which is a combat position, I’ve been mortared, rocketed; we’ve been through a complex arms ambush in our first deployment; multiple roadside bombs and IEDs,” Mooi said. “Things were a little bit hairy the first time, but we didn’t lose anybody in my platoon or squadron. But our battalion lost a few guys the first time over there, either 21 or 22 guys, I’m not sure exactly how many. We had guys who were injured, but none of them were killed.”
During his second tour, Mooi’s platoon again did not lose anyone, but there were still injuries.
Being part of the VFW
Post 10818 is the second post Mooi has been a part of since leaving the military in 2008. At his first post he was the junior vice commander, but he has since moved up to senior vice commander after moving to New Richmond and joining Post 10818.
“The level of activity of this post is much higher than the one I was at before,” Mooi said. “I take pride in the fact that we are helping veterans out there that otherwise wouldn’t be able to get the help. We try to give back as much as we can and there are a lot of things we do that other VFWs aren’t doing.”
Mooi also likes the fact that Post 10818 has been continuing to run its Brotherhood of Brothers and Sisters (BOBS) program to help veterans through the tough times.
For Mooi, celebrating Veterans Day is one of many important steps in recognizing the people who have served in the United States military.
“I think Veterans Day is good in that it helps the civilian public to remember the sacrifices that we made,” Mooi said. “I want people to continue to remember the sacrifices that have been made for them and I think we can strive to do a better job of that.”
Looking back at his accomplishments and where he is today, Mooi would not trade his experiences or change anything he has done in his life.
“Having been part of the military and a Marine has made me the person I am today and I take pride in what I have done,” Mooi said. “A lot of what kept me going was the guys to the left and right of me, as well as the personal pride I had in being a Marine.”
Veterans Day Events
-- Veterans Day Program, at New Richmond Middle School. The event kicks off at 8 a.m. in the middle school gym. All guests are welcome to view the Veterans Museum the eighth grade built, as well as view the Wall of Honor. This years keynote speaker is retired Col. Steve Bensend. The event is open to the community.
-- American Legion Deneen-McCabe Post 432 Veterans Day ceremony, at the Veterans Memorial in Roberts on West Pine Street where it intersects with West Boulevard off Highway 65. Ceremony begins at 1 p.m.
-- A pancake breakfast, at the New Richmond Armory on Wall Street. VFW Post 10818 will host a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9. Breakfast includes pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, juice, fruit, milk and coffee. The event also includes a bake sale. Tickets for adults are $6 in advance, $7.50 at the door. Admission for children 6 to 12 years old is $3; admission is free for children 3 and under. For tickets or more information contact John Mortensen at 715-246-5731.
-- Veterans Day prayer service, at St. Anne’s Parish & School, 140 Church Hill Rd., Somerset. Service starts at 8:20 a.m. The service will include prayer, PowerPoint and songs to remind everyone of the many men and women who have and continue to defend our freedom.
-- Veterans Day assembly, at the St. Mary School in New Richmond. The ceremony will start at 9 a.m.
-- Veterans Day ceremonies, at Somerset Elementary School (625 Sunrise Dr.) from 9:30-10 a.m. Somerset American Legion Post 111 will attend. The student council will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and a Veterans Day Reflection and Facts presentation. Third-graders will sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” A ceremony will also take place at the high school from 8-8:30 a.m. and the middle school from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.
-- Veterans Day ceremony, at St. Croix Central Elementary School in Roberts (202 W. Division St.). The ceremony starts at 10 a.m. in the large gym on the lower level. The public is welcome to attend. Students will sing patriotic songs. Veterans are invited to the microphone to say a few words. If you are a veteran or you would like to honor a veteran, call Lori Sather or Kim Nielsen at 715-749-3119.
-- Veterans Day Ceremony at the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson. The program starts at 11 a.m. and includes musical selections performed by the Hudson High School Band. Master of Ceremonies will be John Helgeson. Guest Speaker will be Merlin Blaisdell, outgoing St. Croix County CVSO. The Veterans Memorial Honor Guard, composed of members for VFW Post 2115 and Otis H. King American Legion Post 50, will provide military honors in tribute to deceased veterans. The event is open to the public.
-- Veterans Day luncheon program St. Croix Central Middle School will host a luncheon for any veterans and their guests caring to attend at 12:15 p.m. in Room 142 (1295 Vine St.) We want to extend a heartfelt invitation to all veterans. Come with your spouse or a friend. Enjoy lunch and conversation with other veterans and our students. If possible, RSVP to the middle school office at 715-796-2256 or email SCC Middle School Counselor Kat Brossmer at email@example.com. A program will follow at 1:30 p.m. in the middle school multipurpose room with a presentation of flags, Pledge of Allegiance, music and guest speaker. The public is welcome to attend.
-- Veterans Day ceremony, at the New Richmond American Legion Post 80. The American Legion ceremony begins at 11 a.m. and will include guest speakers and a rifle salute. A lunch will be served following the ceremony.