America’s One Percent
by James Moriarty, proud father of Jimmy Moriarty, in memory of his son SSGT James F. Moriarty Special Forces Combat Diver, killed in Jordan
Few Americans are aware that less than 1% of our children serve in our military. Of that small percentage, only about 5% serve in Army Special Forces (also known as Green Berets). Of that elite group only about 1% serve as Combat Divers.
My son, Jimmy, did.
The odds of being struck by lightning are higher than achieving what Jimmy did ― 1 in 14,600 vs. 1 in 200,000.
SSGT James F. Moriarty not only served as a Special Forces Combat Diver. He also completed the equally arduous Combat Diver Supervisors Course.
Jimmy was killed in Jordan on November 4, 2016. Because he served three deployments in “safe” Jordan, ostensibly our closest ally in the Middle East, his death at the hands of a Jordanian soldier came as a complete surprise. I never had the chance to tell him all I would have liked before he went into combat. After losing him at age 27, I vowed to learn everything about my son and the training that had gone into making him a successful and amazingly competent young soldier.
Jimmy was living his dream, and like all of us who love what we do, he did it at a very high level.
As a former Marine, I can tell you that Army Green Berets are distinct from other service members. Because they may serve together as part of an Operational Detachment “A” team (ODA team) for years, they become very close. They bring new meaning to loyalty and faithfulness. After Jimmy died, Susan and I received a call from one of his Green Beret buddies who asked if we would like to have dinner with him and his son. I responded “sure” and arranged to meet him at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I asked him what had brought him to Houston because I knew he was stationed where Jimmy was, at Ft. Campbell in Kentucky.
“Jimmy was one of my friends,” he told me, “and I want you to know if you want or need anything, just call me, and I will be there.”
Here was a young man, with a wife and children waiting patiently at home, and he drove from New Orleans to Houston, then back to Kentucky, just to tell me he was there for my family.
A couple months ago, I decided to take him up on his offer.
I called and told him that I would like to take a tour of the Army dive school in Key West, where Jimmy trained. Students learnhow to operate underwater without being detected, using specialized propulsion devices and breathing gear that doesn’t generate bubbles on the water’s surface. They practice dropping into choppy water from helicopters and learn about the particular threats to safety when operating in subsea conditions. One of the school’s tests of physical and mental strength involves a series of movements ― bobbing up and down, flipping underwater and swimming 100 yards ― all while the students’ hands and feet are bound.
I decided to fly down at a time when we could attend not only a graduation for the 6-week long class but also the change of command. One of Jimmy’s dive school buddies, Major James Blackburn, was set to take over command of the entire school.
On Friday, June 29, I shared in the pride and happiness of 16 young men awarded their coveted Combat Diver badges. Much to my surprise, of those 16, three were students attending West Point, not even at the point in their careers to serve on active duty. For three college students to successfully complete one of the most demanding training schools in our military was simply amazing. They, like Jimmy, are the 1 in 200,000.
At the end of the day, I learned that my son had courage and dedication far beyond what I perceived when I was upset about his grades or frustrated because I did not see what his path forward would be. At 27 he had accomplished more towards his goal of becoming a brilliant, diligent and highly skilled warrior, willing to risk his life to fight for, and to die for, his values, than anyone else I’ve known. While I remember the loving, tender and caring son and brother, his Special Forces teammates saw the extraordinarily skilled and heroic warrior, willing to sacrifice his life for his beliefs, his teammates and his country. I miss my boy.