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Commander, Officer With the Naval ROTC Unit
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
U.S. Marine Warrant Officer
POW survivor honored with medal 04/20/02 - theindependent.com News
Two decades ago, Mike Moeller was held captive in Iran for 14 months Last modified at 11:46 p.m. on Friday, April 19, 2002 LOUP CITY -- Mike Moeller, a retired U.S. Marine warrant officer, received the Prisoner of War medal Friday at the American Legion Post 48 in Loup City for being held captive for 14 months beginning in 1979 in Iran. Col. Reno Bamford, commanding officer with the Naval ROTC Unit at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented the medal to Moeller, 51, of Loup City.Bamford is also in the U.S. Marine Corps, was raised on a farm west of Kearney and also was a Marine security guard. "Since I was 2 years old, I knew that I was going to be in the Marine Corps," Moeller said after the medal was awarded."We still have war in 2002 faced with some of the greatest terrorism we can imagine.We are doing so because we've had such a soft touch to terrorists.We've got to be so tough on terrorists that they don't come to the United States." Although Moeller was not captured during a declared war, "we felt we were at war -- the war against terrorism." Shuda is unsure why it took more than 20 years after Moeller was released to get the medal. "I'm just really happy to see friends and family here to help me share this moment," Mike Moeller said. Moeller reported for boot camp on March 7, 1971, and retired almost 21 years later.He was a non-commissioned staff sergeant when he and 51 other Americans were held hostage in Iran for 444 days, beginning Nov. 4, 1979.Iranian officials threatened to try Moeller on charges of having had sexual relations with a young Iranian woman.After Moeller was captured, his family in Loup City made yellow ribbons to display in town to remind people of him.The United States and Iran agreed on Jan. 19, 1981, to release the hostages.They were freed on Jan. 20, 1981. Moeller was the commander in charge of the Marine security guards at the Tehran embassy and had been there since June 1979. "That day we were captured, the Marines lost a good part of their self-esteem and confidence," he said."We were very scared." They were not as frightened about the possibility of being killed, but "we didn't want to suffer while they did it." Moeller was held in the embassy's basement for about two months, moved to the ambassador's residence and returned to the embassy.After a rescue attempt was made, the hostages were divided into small groups and moved throughout Iran.He and other hostages tried to establish daily routines. "We needed to feel that we had some control in our lives," he said. In the morning, they prayed, made their beds, ate breakfast and exercised.He and a cellmate did at least 100 sit-ups and other exercises, read, then exercised again.How they were treated depended on who the guards were.A number of hostages were beaten and tortured.He was blindfolded and had his hands tied behind his back. "I was hit and punched," he said."We were always threatened and intimidated." Moeller had little communication with outsiders and received one card in six months from a person he didn't know. "They didn't want to give me mail," he said."They didn't allow me to have communication with family." After he was released, he was transported to Algiers and Germany, then reunited with family in West Point, N.Y. Moeller was asked if he had any physical or psychological effects from his captivity. "Obviously there were some changes.I don't want to go into details.There were some residual effects," he said. Moeller wouldn't speculate what the United States needs to do now in its war against terrorism. "There are people who are more current on that who need to make the decisions," he said. Moeller is a substitute mail carrier, has a carpet cleaning business and does a lot of volunteer work, his sister, Rae Lee, said.Mike and Elaine Moeller and their children moved to Loup City in 1991.
Col. Reno Bamford pins the medal on the chest of Mike Moeller.Standing at attention face-to-face with a fellow Marine, the 51-year-old Moeller received a U.S. Prisoner of War Medal in front of his family and several hundred friends and neighbors jammed into his hometown's American Legion Club. Moeller was a 28-year-old staff sergeant in charge of the Marine guards at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when Iranian protesters overran it in November 1979.He and 51 other Americans were held hostage for 444 days. In brief remarks, Moeller said that the threat of terrorism facing America today is a result of the decisions the United States made when he and the others were taken hostage. About the medal Instituted: Nov. 8, 1985 Criteria: Issued only to U.S. military personnel who were taken prisoner and held captive after April 5, 1917. Moeller, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighed 185 pounds before the embassy takeover, weighed less than 140 pounds at one point. The strongest memory he has of the captivity is losing control of his life. "Other than that," he said, "it was long, lonely days filled with hope.They are good memories.Even the bad memories (are good)." Moeller retired in 1991 after 20 years in the Marine Corps to raise his family in the free and safe surroundings of his hometown. Other veterans pat him on the back and say their experiences weren't as intense, but Moeller replies that he did nothing that any other American serviceman or servicewoman wouldn't have done. "We did what was expected of us," he said, "and that makes us equal." Loup City is a community of veterans and families of veterans, and Moeller said he stands in awe of all their sacrifices. Marine Col. Reno Bamford, commanding officer of the Navy ROTC unit at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented the medal to Moeller. The hostage incident started Nov. 4, 1979, when young Iranians protesting medical treatment given the exiled Shah of Iran in the U.S. marched on the embassy.There was a sit-in, a skirmish with the guards and then the takeover. Moeller, who commanded the detachment of Marine guards, marked his 29th birthday during captivity while across America yellow ribbons hung from porches and parking meters as symbols that the hostages were not forgotten. Iran released the hostages shortly after President Ronald Reagan's inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981. Moeller's homecoming parade in February 1981 attracted a crowd of 3,000, rivaling a Polish Days crowd a few years earlier.A local tavern owner set aside 444 bottles of beer for Moeller, one for each day of captivity. Shortly after returning to the U.S. from Iran, Moeller re-enlisted.He retired as a warrant officer and now operates a cleaning business in Loup City and is a substitute mail carrier. Moeller is a 1969 graduate of Loup City High School.He attended Parks School of Business in Denver and worked briefly as a carpenter before joining the Marines in 1971.During the Vietnam War he had two tours of sea duty with a Marine airborne landing force.He took part in the mining of Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnam. After training for embassy guard duty, he was assigned to the U.S. Embassy at Karachi, Pakistan, for two years and reassigned in June 1979 to the embassy in Tehran.
WOWT | Hostage Connection
Moeller moved back to Loup City after retiring from the Marine Corps.Today, the Nebraskan says he's sure that Iran's newly-elected president was involved in taking him captive.Mr. Moeller tells Channel 6 News that he was very unhappy when he first saw a photo of Iran's new leader.Moeller says, "He was a stand-off guy, kind of the background guy.Not the one in my case who did any direct talking."While Iranian officials are denying that Ahmadinejad was involved, Moeller says his leadership in Iran should be a concern to U.S. officials.Mike Moeller says there has not been a day that's gone by in the past 25 years that her hasn't thought about his days as a hostage.
Volunteers do make a difference 04/27/02 - theindependent.com Opinion
* Mike Moeller, a retired U.S. Marine warrant officer, received a Prisoner of War medal for being held captive in Iran for 14 months in 1979 and 1980.Moeller grew up in Loup City.