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Fred Moore (pictured) may not be a household name to many, but the pioneering U.S. Army soldier was the first African-American man to hold a guard post at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is considered to be one of the most-honorable military duties. Moore was recognized in honor of Black History Month by the Public Affairs office of the Army as he retold his epic journey.

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Moore joined the army in 1959 amid racial tensions sparked largely by the Civil Rights Movement. He was a reluctant soldier, using family advice to make his transition to serve as smooth as possible.

“I had three older brothers who had been in the service, and the advice they gave me before I left was to keep my mouth shut and don’t volunteer for anything,” said Moore in an interview. However, his defiance against his siblings paid off in the long run. Moore volunteered for entry into the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment aka the Old Guard. From there, Moore would become part of the annals of Black history.

After a visit from then-President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah to the Arlington National Cemetery alongside President John F. Kennedy, Nkrumah inquired about the lack of Black soldiers working on the grounds. “I was obvious wherever I went,” Moore shared. “I was the only Black on a military firing party. The officers would come up and they would tell me, ‘We see you and you’re doing a good job.’”

His good work landed him the post of Tomb Guard, and his training started immediately.  Moore said he was never treated poorly. In fact, he only has positive memories of his experience, “They all treated me very, very fairly,” said Moore.

In 1961, he humbly took his post, with fellow soldiers hiding the fact that he was breaking a color barrier. “It was a job that I was given, and I just considered it a great honor,” said Moore, who is still taken aback by the fuss people make about his place in the history books.

“I think it’s a little much,” said Moore. “When young guys talk to me about being the first, I tell them I just took the opportunity that was afforded to me, but you guys are taking it to another level so I am more proud of you all then I am of myself.”


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