Chris Moon’s sacrifice reminiscent of ASU sports hero

The tragic story of Chris Moon ended yesterday when family and friends said their last goodbyes to a local sports hero who set aside a promising baseball career to enlist in the military.

Spc. Christopher Moon died July 13 in a hospital in Germany after he stepped on a roadside bomb while on combat patrol in Afghanistan.  His funeral was yesterday.

Moon, the 2006 Southern Arizona baseball Player of the Year during his high school career at Tucson High, is the 12th Navajo serviceman and 46th service member from the Tucson/southern Arizona area to lose their life in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His athletic career was just beginning to move to the next level.  Moon had been offered a scholarship to play at the University of Arizona and he would likely have been a starter in his freshman year.

Even beyond a promising college career, he had the potential to play in the pro’s.  He had been drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

If this sounds familiar, comparisons can be drawn to another local sports and military hero whose life was cut short.

Pat Tillman had a standout career at Arizona State and played three years in the NFL before turning down a lucrative contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he became a Ranger.  He was killed in Afghanistan as well, in April of 2004, and was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star posthumously.

Tillman’s uniform number was retired at ASU and by the Arizona Cardinals and, this year, he was selected for enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Moon didn’t get the chance to earn the kind of accolades that has left a lasting legacy for Tillman.

But, if the funeral that took place yesterday in Tucson is any indicator, he will be remembered for the success he did achieve.  More than 1,000 people turned out to pay their last respects to the paratrooper, making it one of the largest military funerals Tucson has witnessed.

His pastor since childhood, Randy Hammonds, spoke at the funeral and called the young man a “star in every category”, not just as an athlete and soldier, but as an individual as well.

Just one more thing he had in common with Tillman.