Better with Age: A man with a million stories

Better with Age: A man with a million stories
Lloyd Moss during his time in the foreign service traveling around the world. (Courtesy photo)

By Lexie Jordan | 

If there’s one thing Lloyd Moss has learned he loves in his 72 years, it’s helping people – no matter where they are in the world. 

Moss was born and raised in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. and stayed through high school. He is the son of a World War II doctor and nephew to a foreign service officer. Moss grew up hearing great stories of foreign places and wars, but most importantly, about people helping other people. 

He took an early liking to the German language and culture in school; unlike other teenagers, Moss’ reasoning for choosing his foreign language was not because it was easy, but because he wanted to read the literature, history and theology of Germany. During his undergraduate time at Davidson College in North Carolina, Moss took a year abroad where he went to Germany as an exchange student. He perfected his German and immersed himself in the culture. 

Moss then went to Johns Hopkins University for graduate school, taking courses in history, literature and German. He had only just started his dissertation when the foreign service knocked on his door. 

Growing up, Moss had no idea what he wanted to do, but upon hearing the stories and work of his uncle, he was always open to working in the foreign service. 

“Had I known then what I later learned, I would have had enough tenacity to say, ‘I will join but I need another year to finish my dissertation,’ but at the time I didn’t have that much nerve,” Moss said. 

Thanks to pure luck, his first assignment with the foreign service was in Berlin where he stayed from 1983 to 1986. He witnessed many atrocities of a struggling post-war Germany, including the loss of a friend. 

“On the day I departed Berlin, as the aircraft took off, [I was told] I have bad news,” Moss wrote in an autobiographical article. “‘A U.S. Army officer with whom you’ve done a bit of Reserve work is being shot dead by a Soviet soldier.’” 

Moss then went to Auckland, New Zealand from 1986 to 1987, which is where he met the love of his life, Sera, who he described as someone with a big heart. 

“I was very fortunate. She was a wonderful wife. She had many talents,” Moss said. “I’ve never met anyone who has better interpersonal skills than she did. ” 

Following the quick move to New Zealand, Moss and his wife went to Palau where they were stationed from 1990 to 1994. Moss described it as “a tropical island paradise and marvelous aquatic wonderland with fascinating people.” 

In 1990, the Moss’ had their first daughter, Eva. Thinking back to that time, Moss reminisced on the nomadic lifestyle with children. 

“It was fun at the start when they’re young. It’s all one great adventure. Then when they get into their teen years and start making relationships, that’s when it gets hard,” Moss said. 

Next stop for the Moss family was Grenada. They were there from 1998 to 2001 where Moss dealt with many high priority cases, specifically when Fidel Castro came to visit. 

According to Moss, the most impactful part of the Grenada stay was when the family added one more family member: Moss and his wife decided to adopt a Grenadian girl, Sarrana. 

The family arrived back in Washington, D.C., where they were stunned by the 9/11 attacks. 

In 2003, the Moss’s were uprooted once again to Belize, where they stayed for three years. Moss dealt with his fair share of problems, including a blackout in Belize that forced almost no communication with the outside world for a week. 

“For about a week, no cell phones, internet, telephone, radio, television or ATMs. The country’s only link with the outside world was the satellite system on the roof of the Embassy; we asked U.S. citizen tourists to limit their calls to a few minutes,” Moss said. “The ironic adage holds true: invention is the mother of necessity – not the other way round.” 

In 2006, the family moved to Jamaica. They dealt with hurricanes, wildly entertaining drug lords in disguises and the Jamaican police attempting to reassert government control. Moss was also present to celebrate Usain Bolt’s Beijing Olympic victories. 

Moss was then stationed in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013. There, he saw the horrors of war and lost friends. 

“At night we often had to endure rocket attacks against the airfield, but these were seldom effective,” Moss said. “Near the end of my tour, a terrible tragedy [occurred] while delivering Pashtu textbooks to a local school: A group of aid workers was ambushed by the Taliban and suffered several casualties, among them my friend, Anne Smedinghoff.” 

Moss wanted to go back and serve for a third year, but his application was rejected. 

“It’s a good thing I was not approved,” Moss said. “They were seldom approving anyone for a third year and I finally knew why when I got home and realized how tired I was.” 

Moss and his wife lived in Miami for several years following his stint in the Middle East. During that time, Moss volunteered at a hospital. 

“I really just like being able to help people,” Moss said. 

Moss and his wife then planned to retire in Samoa; however, after only about a year of peace, problems ensued once again. Sera, his wife, was diagnosed with cancer and was brought back to her home in New Zealand for treatment. 

“She fought cancer long and hard, but it was too late,” Moss said. “About the last thing I ever would have expected was that she would precede me.” 

Following Sera’s death, Moss could not return to Samoa because they were still on lockdown due to COVID-19, so in November 2022 he came to the DMV area to visit family, including his sister who was living at The View Alexandria. During his trip, he had a routine check up where he was shockingly diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

“All of this was completely unexpected. I thought I was visiting my sister,” he said. 

He moved into The View Alexandria following his diagnosis, where he received his treatment while staying near his sister. Thanks to modern medicine, Moss is now cancer free. 

“Now, I’m supposedly – gratefully – cancer free. Modern medicine is simply amazing. I only wish my wife’s problem could have been diagnosed and dealt with the same way,” Moss said. 

Throughout his long career in the foreign service and all his travels, Moss said the best part was meeting the wonderful people in the host countries. 

Reflecting back on this time and thinking of his biggest inspirations, Moss sat with a bright smile on his face. He listed several friends all with names from different ethnicities. 

“I really have known some remarkable people along the way,” Moss said with a glint in his eyes, “and some truly psychologically tough characters.” 

Moss also said advice he lives by is that “despite the many problems around the world, remain optimistic. There is always a way ahead.” 

These days Moss spends his time reading and watching world news and volunteering at ALIVE! in Del Ray, where he has been working for the past four months as the new location gets on its feet. 

“After merely 30 years of service, I’m perfectly happy doing unpaid volunteer work,” Moss laughed. 

Moss plans on leaving The View Alexandria this month in the hopes of returning to Samoa for the next phase of his retirement. He said he hopes to volunteer and teach English and German at the local school. 

Before his departure, Moss went to Winston-Salem, N.C., where he watched his daughter, Eva, get married. 

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to take things one day at a time, so that’s what I’m going to do.”