Sgt Raymundo Morales
Home Award Program Recipient
Army Sergeant Raymundo Morales was born in Dalton, Georgia and graduated from Murray County High School in 1994. Shortly after his graduation, he joined the Georgia Army National Guard and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he received specialized training as an M1 Abrams battle tank mechanic. Upon graduation he was assigned to Company C in the 148th Infantry Division of the Georgia Army National Guard based in Cedartown, Georgia. Assignments in the Guard during this time included Camp Shelby, Mississippi, The People’s Republic of Georgia, and Afghanistan.
In December 1999, Ray married the love of his life and long-time girlfriend, the former Kimberly Sue Cochran, also from Dalton, Georgia. Together they had four children, Brianne (1996), Valerie (1997), Noah (1999), and Lillian (2000). The family lived in Tunnel Hill, Ga., and then relocated to Austin, Texas, where Kimberly and the children remained during Ray’s frequent deployments.
On March 1, 2009, Specialist Morales was deployed to Methar-Lam, Afghanistan, assigned to Company D in the 148th Brigade Support Battalion. The two tried to talk regularly during his deployment, and on their last conversation, Kimberly told her husband to stay safe. Ray tried to mitigate Kimberly’s worrying by reminding her that he was stationed to a “safe” area-one that was designated as a green zone and combat free.
In the early morning hours of July 21, 2009, Kimberly and the children were awakened by the Chaplain and Casualty Assistance Officer ringing their doorbell. Kimberly knew instantly what their ominous visit had meant, and sent the children to their rooms. The two men then told her the devastating news: Ray’s armored vehicle had rolled over on a curvy mountain road; Ray had been riding in the turret and was killed instantly. The accident occurred on July 21, 2009 while his convoy was delivering supplies in Methar Lam, Afghanistan. Telling her children this heartbreaking news about their dad was among the most difficult moments of Kimberly’s life.
Ray was buried in Colonial Hills Memorial Park Cemetery in Dalton, next to his grandfather, after whom he was named, on July 30, 2009 with full military honors. His military awards and decorations include: Army Achievement Medal (second award), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (third award), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with one bronze service star), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (“M” Device and Bronze Hour Glass Device), Army Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and both the Special Operations Ribbon and Service Medal from the state of Georgia. He was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal (second award), Army Good Conduct Medal, and NATO Medal.
After the funeral, Kimberly and the children returned to Texas where they continued their long, painful grieving process. Losing a husband is difficult for any wife, and it was especially challenging for Kimberly trying to raise four children with no family in the area. Kimberly was encouraged to apply to Homes For Our Troops and its Home Award Program by a Survivor Outreach Services coordinator. At the time, Kimberly was renting space in a friend’s home. She applied for the program and weeks later learned that her application was accepted. A mortgage-free home was selected for her family in La Porte Texas. The news of this special gift, says Kimberly, represented a new beginning and sense that life is somewhat returning to a new normal since Ray’s death. “I’m just amazed and so deeply filled with gratitude that this program even exists,” says Kimberly. “To be accepted into it is truly a dream come true.”
Kimberly, Brianne, Valerie, Noah, and Lillian are looking forward to moving to La Porte, Texas and finally having a home to call their own. Currently Kimberly is a licensed practical nurse (LPN); staying in a mortgage-free home will allow her to work toward completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing to eventually become a nurse practitioner. She and the children are especially excited that they will be living just a few minutes away from the beach. Says Kimberly, “I’m so excited to begin this new chapter in our lives and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us.”