Army Sgt. George Moje Jr. was honorably discharged in 1952...

Army Sgt. George Moje Jr. was honorably discharged in 1952 after receiving several awards for his military service. His remains were kept in a storage locker for six decades until his niece discovered where they were.  Credit: Courtesy of Diane Moje-Garcia

For nearly six decades, the remains of Army Sgt. George Moje Jr., a decorated combat veteran who served in Korea and during the aftermath of World War II, sat abandoned in a cold, sterile Queens storage locker — his years of meritorious service to the nation lost for generations.

The mystery of what had become of the uncle she'd never met confounded Diane Moje-Garcia, of Ridge, sending her on a circuitous journey for answers that concludes on Friday as Sgt. Moje finally receives a military send-off during a Catholic Mass in Center Moriches and a burial service at Calverton National Cemetery.

“It's the right thing to do,” Moje-Garcia said Tuesday. “So many times, people are just forgotten. I want to give him what he deserves.”

A hero in combat

George Moje, the oldest of two brothers raised in Jackson Heights, Queens, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 at the age of 17. After completing his basic training, Moje was sent to Japan, which was still occupied by Allied Forces after the end of the war. He was later awarded a World War II Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal, records show.

Moje, who remained in the military, was later deployed to Korea with the Army's Third Infantry Division as a radio chief with the Communications Platoon.

Army Sgt. George Moje Jr.'s Bronze Star citation.

 

Army Sgt. George Moje Jr.'s Bronze Star citation.

 

While records are scant regarding the details of Moje's service during the Korean War, he earned a Bronze Star for his time in combat between Jan. 25 and Sept. 7, 1951, a period when his unit was engaged in a series of legendary battles for control of a region that became known as “Heartbreak Ridge.” 

The Second Infantry Division, and its attached units, sustained 3,700 casualties — the North Koreans lost an estimated 25,000 soldiers — during the bloody battle. Records show Moje was honorably discharged from the Army on Oct. 19, 1951, after suffering a severe battlefield injury to his stomach. He later received the Combat Infantry Badge and the Korean Service Medal. 

Moje's Bronze Star certificate states that he “molded his section into a highly effective and efficient unit, and constantly strove for improvement. His willingness to work long hours after the normal duty day, training new replacements and giving them the full benefit of his own valuable combat knowledge, enabled them to meet and overcome the obstacles encountered on the battlefield and resulted in the formation of an exceptionally efficient radio section.” 

When he returned home, Moje struggled with complications from his injuries and later, a dependency on alcohol, said Moje-Garcia, whose son attends the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. After years of visits to VA hospitals, Moje died on April 15, 1965, and was cremated.

Army Sgt. George Moje Jr. was honorably discharged in 1952....

Army Sgt. George Moje Jr. was honorably discharged in 1952. His remains were kept in a storage locker for six decades until his niece discovered them.  Credit: Courtesy of Diane Moje-Garcia

Moje's family, distraught over the untimely death, never claimed his remains following his Queens funeral service.

Instead, to honor his younger brother, William Moje, the father of Moje-Garcia, carried a copy of “Just for Today” — a poem from Al-Anon, a support group for people affected by alcoholism — in his wallet until his own death in 2019.

Long-hidden remains

After her father's death, Moje-Garcia came across paperwork from Frederick Funeral Home in Flushing, which handled her uncle's services decades earlier. She contacted the facility, hoping to discover the details of his disposition. After some sleuthing, she learned that her uncle's ashes had been kept for 58 years in the funeral home's storage locker.

“I just cried because I couldn't believe they had them for that long,” Moje-Garcia said. “Sitting in a storage facility just breaks my heart.”

With the remains finally back in the family's hands, a Catholic Mass will be held on Friday at 10:45 a.m. at St. John The Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, followed by an interment at Calverton National Cemetery.

“This is a person who served their country and is now being put to rest in a place of dignity and honor,” said Daniel Moloney, president of Moloney Family Funeral Homes, which is arranging the services.

Thomas Kilmartin, a retired colonel in the Army National Guard, helped Moje-Garcia, a family friend, navigate her uncle's military records and is working to obtain documents detailing the nature of his combat injuries.

“It's important that we recognize all service members who served this country. They deserve a final resting place,” said Kilmartin, who is traveling from his home in Georgia to speak at the service of Moje, whom he never met. “This is very important to the family, and it's very important to me.”

Moje-Garcia is asking Long Island local veterans groups and motorcycle clubs — her uncle rode one — to assist in the funeral procession from the church to Calverton National Cemetery.

“I wish I could have met him. He died a year before I was born,” she said. “But I'm honored and fascinated with what my uncle did and what a hero he was.”

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