Project Overview

VETERAN: Chris Moore

ARTIST: Morgan Gelfand
INSTAGRAM: @morgangelfand

VIDEOGRAPHER: Jamie MunroThe VIA Agency
PHOTOGRAPHER: Sean Alonzo Harris



State 02: Maine

JULY 17-18, 2017

This design is apart of the HAS HEART 50 States Project

An extreme athlete growing up with a long-line of military service in his family, Chris Moore enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school thinking it would be a “fun adventure.” His first deployment was to Kosovo in 1999 on a peacekeeping operation in which he was the driver for high-ranking officials. It was during that time of “hurry up + wait,” that Chris was introduced to reading literature and philosophy by one of those officials. Soon after returning home from deployment, 9/11 happened.

Instead of enrolling in college, Chris found himself in the middle of the initial ground forces of the Invasion of Iraq in 2002. That deployment was followed by an involuntary extension that lasted through 2004, when Chris transitioned into being a college student, which was more difficult than expected. Chris eventually changed his major and career path to design, which in hindsight, was sparked from his time serving when he began noticing the use of typography and design within the military, especially in uniforms and patches.

His design is a visual representation of the diverse education he received from his experiences serving both during peacetime and in war. The quotes are deprived from some of his favorite books, small reminders to keep calm, accept the things that are out of your control, utilize time to better yourself, and to maintain a forward-facing, always-advancing, never-retreating mentality.

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8.5in x 11in

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Behind The Process

Written by: Kendra Clapp Olguín
Photos by: Sean Alonzo Harris

Although we know this isn’t the case, many Veterans don’t consider themselves creative. It’s a common response we hear when we first approach potential Veteran participants for design projects. So when we began exchanging emails with Chris Moore for our Maine state project, we found ourselves in new territory of having a Veteran who is a graphic designer.

We weren’t the only ones in a new circumstance; Chris was going to have to step into the role of “client” to fellow Portland graphic designer Morgan Gelfand. We would soon learn, however, that Chris is no stranger to changing circumstances and that his design would reflect not only the combination of experiences that led him to be the person he is today, but also demonstrate the manner in which he adapts and accepts what comes his way.

It was a foggy Monday morning in mid-July when we met with Chris and Morgan in Maine’s historic Baxter Building located in downtown Portland on Congress Street. Originally built in 1888 in Romanesque Revival style as the Portland Public library, the building then became part of the Maine College of Art (MECA) in 1983, when the library moved.

Eventually, in 2010, the building became the home of the VIA Agency, the marketing and advertising agency where Morgan works and our gracious host for the Maine state project. It was fitting, really, being in a building where one of Chris’ life phases life took place. While getting to know one another over coffee that first morning, he reminisced on the classes he had taken within the building while attending MECA.

It’s funny, the places life takes you and perhaps takes you back to, but before I jump ahead, let me first introduce Christopher Moore.

Chris grew up in a Connecticut town outside of New York City. One for adventure, his dream was to become an extreme athlete. After graduating high school in 1997 and heading to college, Chris, realizing he wasn’t in the highest caliber of world-class extreme athletes, deliberating that college wasn’t for him, and with a long-line of military service in his family, joined the Army thinking it could be a fun adventure.

“I was so young; I couldn’t even grow facial hair at this point,” Chris laughs. “I didn’t see it as going to war. All that was going on at the time was the whole Bill Clinton-and-Monica Lewinsky fiasco. I only thought of it as an adventure.”

After a series of tests, Chris was assigned to a position working with computers. It was at this point when he mentioned to Morgan that he signed a confidentiality agreement and therefore, couldn’t talk of what he did specifically. She nodded in respect and understanding. After a year of basic training, he went to school for his position regarding on-board computer systems and graduated from his advanced training in 1999.

His first deployment in the 1st Armored Division was to Kosovo on a peacekeeping operation for about a year-and-a-half in which he was the driver for high-ranking officials while also working on computers.

“In Kosovo, it was a humanitarian crisis and was considered a multi-national peacekeeping operation. We were working closely with the United Nations. We took it very seriously and tried to make sure we were doing good and to make sure that the killing stopped,” he describes to Morgan.

It was during this time that Chris took interest in the symbols and insignias of the military.

“It got me thinking of typography and design. I always loved the badges and patches, the monochromatic greens, and the crests of units. I remember thinking to myself, ‘man, this is speaking to me… it’s all so beautiful, this language in this bizarre military world.”

It was also during this time that Chris fostered his love of literature.

“All day I would sit in a humvee, waiting for these officials to get out of meetings,” he shares. “There was this one high-ranking guy that I drove that was one of the first people that I felt valued me as a human. He would give me books and that’s what got me interested in literature and philosophy. I was learning all this stuff and thought that maybe I wanted to go back to school.”

Soon after returning from his first deployment in Kosovo, the attacks of September 11th happened. About a year later, in 2002, Chris was transferred to the 4th Infantry Division because of his position and was part of the initial ground forces of the Invasion of Iraq. He tells Morgan of the extensive route of the invasion, first going to Turkey, waiting on a boat for weeks, and eventually heading toward Kuwait when Turkey refused to let the United States invade through their border.

After a month in Kuwait, Chris was part of a 400-vehicle convoy that eventually made their way to set up base in Baghdad. Eventually, the 4th Infantry Division made their way to Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, turning his already-abandoned primary palace into their headquarters. While explaining the lavish and excessive interior of the palace with gold moldings and fancy marble everywhere, Chris shuffled through 4×6 photographs he brought in. He held one up to Morgan. There he was, just a young thing in uniform, standing in this enormous palatial room where a dictator once stood. It was no wonder Chris was having existential and philosophical thoughts.

At first, the Iraqi people celebrated their arrival but after seven or eight months, Chris explains the transition of Iraqi sentiment, “It went from celebrating that we were there to a very hostile environment and within a year of being there, the number of casualties was ramping up.”

It wasn’t that Chris was caught off-guard by the strife, in Kosovo he had seen conflict. Yet, while in Kosovo he understood his intention as part of a peacekeeping operation.

“In Iraq,” he explains to Morgan, “We weren’t even sure why we were there and a lot of the high-ranking officials were also questioning it. It got to the point where I thought, ‘This is bullshit.’ Many of us were confused about the story and still are. Seeing the Commander in Chief with that ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner made it even more confusing because at that point, we were still in Saddam’s palace seeing shit blown up.”

While on an overarching level Chris may have felt confused and frustrated, his attention and focus was still on his survival and the survival of those around him. When Morgan asks him how he felt specifically about Bush’s claim of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Chris responds that, “Although there was confusion, we were operating on much more granular level. We never got too lofty in the debates as to whether or not we should be there. We were more like, ‘let’s make sure we’re all ok.’”

When his Iraq deployment seemed to be winding down, he received notice of an involuntary extension of his active duty service obligation.

“If you’re in and they invested into your training for a year or however long, they feel they have a ‘right’ to an extension,” Chris explains. 

At the time, Chris was already registered at the University of New Hampshire and began reading Kerouac in order to get into the college swing-of-things to pursue a degree in English. Feeling an increasing lack of control and stability, Chris focused even further on surviving his extended active service obligation and used literature as an escape.

“Reading was the only thing I could rely on,” he explains. “I was always on call because my schedule was all over the place so I would read Orson Wells, Steven King, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut. The worlds and communities they created in these books were rich, something to explore, and an escape.”

This more thoughtful and reflective man was a far cry from the extreme sports teenager from New England who only wanted adventure.

“It’s not like I had a full understanding of what I was getting into, and if I would have, I wouldn’t have signed up,” he reflects on his younger self. “But, I guess I did figure out who I was in the military.” Eventually, Chris finished his Iraq deployment in 2004, feeling more confident in himself. “I don’t think I had an original thought until I was confronted with it in the military,” he says.

“I started getting into philosophical things because I witnessed how fragile everything was.”

Once home, Chris continued onto the next chapter: transitioning back to civilian life. He was well into his college career at the University of New Hampshire thanks to some transferred credits from his computer training in the Army when he realized he underestimated how arduous this transition would be.

“Until you go through it, you don’t think it’s going to be difficult,” he shares with Morgan. “Because of these systems I worked with in the Army, I had sensitive equipment I constantly checked in. Living with these items, for years I always thinking, ‘what’s going to happen?’ Even when I was asleep, there was always a part of me that was awake. Living like that for so long and then going back to a daily-routine, I was surprised. When you compare and contrast then and now, that’s when it hits you that, ‘Oh, I’m not in that anymore,’ and the floodgates open.”

To divert his attention, he threw himself in his studies at UNH. Like many college students, he wrestled with the notion of what he wanted to do and major in. Fortunately, a couple of professors confronted Chris about his interests and ultimate goals, leading him to transfer to the Maine College of Art (MECA) after three years at UNH. Although he had to completely start over as none of his previous credits transferred, Chris was finally feeding his appetite of design. Graduating with Honors in Graphic Design in 2012, he went on to be a designer for different Portland marketing and design agencies, including Puelle Design where he currently works.

Additionally, Chris has served as the Communications Chair for AIGA Maine since 2014, which is how HAS HEART was fortunate enough to meet him.

Even after almost 15 years of being out of the Army, he still feels the effects of war. “My body went through a transformative experience. I don’t think I’ll ever truly let my guard down. I don’t like confined spaces where I feel vulnerable and I have a high sense of operational security. When you’re over there, you just go with the flow. Before you know it, you’re exposed to depleted uranium and burn pits,” Chris says as he elaborates on the unusual climate and environment soldiers operate in. 

While explaining why, like many other Iraq War Veterans, his ears ring from to time, he says, “In the heat of the moment [during an attack or fight], no one is stopping and putting in their ear plugs.”

Morgan, young enough not to remember what life was like before 9/11, then asks Chris if being in the military during that time affected his beliefs or political stance.

“I wouldn’t say change,” Chris responds. “I certainly am patriotic and I might not have said that prior. I have always tried to be a good person and the Army Values, I think I do carry that with me, just trying to be a valuable, productive person and just trying to make a difference.”

I think we were all a little surprised at this response. As a kid that signed up for adventure whose path led him from peacekeeping to a self-described confusing war and then a frustrating involuntary extension, I think we were all expecting a different answer. Yet, in reality, his response was a reflection of his maturity and growth during his time in the Army and since then. In all of these experiences and life phases, Chris had a choice to respond bitterly or to simply acknowledge it all for what it was, not panic, and then proceed. With the help of his love of literature, he chose the latter.

When it came time to create the design, Morgan envisioned not just one graphic image, but instead, a combination of images to represent Chris and his experience serving. With inspiration from his initial interest in design through military iconography, she gravitated toward the idea of a cluster of patches.

For years patches have been used as a tool for militaries and institutions to identify and organize personnel. Yet, counterculture’s use of patches in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s have concretized the extension and use of patches in American culture and fashion not only to convey opinions on social causes but also to display one’s individuality and identity.

Identifying the importance of literature not only in Chris’ life but also in the lives of millions, Morgan was drawn toward the wisdom and quotes from some of Chris’ favorite books because they just so happened to be some of her favorites as well. While collaborating together, they excitedly bounced different topics and sayings from these novels of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams.

Morgan’s dog is even named Vonnegut.

By combining the relatable mediums of literature, design, and fashion, Morgan and Chris shared his continual evolution and growth in a way that connects with and inspires others to reflect on their life courses.

Additionally, by titling the design “Don’t Panic,” they paid homage to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy while also to remind others of the choice they have in reacting to how life plays out.

As for Chris’ advice to others? Adventurous and adaptable as he’s always been, he firmly believes in not panicking and that S.W.O., “Shit works out.”

Hey, if it got him through extreme sports, a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, the Invasion of Iraq, camping in Saddam’s Tikrit palace, endless humvee drives, an involuntary extension, two colleges, and much, much more, I’d say it’s sound advice.

As the project neared its end on the second design day, we all walked down to Novare Res Bier Cafe in Downtown Portland. Just a couple of blocks away from the water, you could smell the salt in the air. There we all where: Chris, Morgan, Tyler, AIGA Maine President Samantha Haedrich (not pictured below), Photographer Sean Alonzo Harris, Videographer Jamie Munro, and I all sitting at a picnic table, drinking local beer, and eating pretzels to celebrate the culmination of the Maine state project.

In that moment, things were very much so working out.


Written by: Kendra Clapp Olguin | Photos by: Tyler Way