WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - On a cold, gray Saturday afternoon one year ago today, thousands of people lined streets in Wilmington to honor a young man they had never met. They waited to see the hearse carrying the body of Army Specialist Antonio Moore, who had died days earlier in a rollover crash while on his first deployment in Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The procession began at Wilmington International Airport, escorted through a sea of American flags en route to Wilmington Burial and Cremation to prepare for Spec. Moore’s funeral. From inside a bus directly behind the hearse, Spec. Moore’s family looked at the faces of strangers, many shedding their own tears at the young, vibrant life lost in service to community and country. If those who turned out had any question whether their actions brought support to the grieving family, Spec. Moore’s mother provides the answer.
“They will never know how much it meant,” said Crystal Vereen, searching for the words to express her thanks to every man, woman and child who showed up along the route. “I just keep leading back to ‘thank you’. Thank you for helping this family just rise up, and make it feel like we weren’t alone, and making me feel like we all were in this together.”
In the year since Spec. Moore’s death, his family has received many messages of support from young and old alike, ranging from elementary school children and Spec. Moore’s Hoggard High School classmates signing posters, to fellow veterans sending coins and other military mementos. Mrs. Vereen says those expressions of sympathy, and their deep faith in God, have helped get them through such a devastating time.
“We all turn to God when we feel like we’re going to fall, because you have your moments where you’re stumbling,” she says about dealing with the loss of her child. “You have your moments where you feel like you’re going to fall flat on your face. But because there is a Higher Power, because there is a Man up above, He’s always going to pick us up. He’s never going to let us fall.”