He wasn’t expecting the crowd of well-wishers, the balloons, pictures, plaque and applause. Or the check for $21,500, raised in less than a month as a gift of appreciation by folks grateful for his military service in Afghanistan.
Moss, who in March 2006 survived a rocket-propelled grenade that was lodged in his body, was rendered nearly speechless by yet another outpouring from the Hall County community.
"I didn’t know when I signed that paper that people would support me like this," Moss told a group of more than 50 well-wishers crowded into the Longstreet Cafe. "I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart."
The idea to raise money for the former Army private started with Richard Higgins, a member of the "Girly-Men Coffee Club," a group of eight or 10 Hall County men who gather regularly at Longstreet Cafe, said club member Jack Waldrip.
"He just said one morning, ‘We’ve got Christmas coming up and Channing’s done so much, we should try to raise some money for him,’" recalled Waldrip, a coffee club member who has known Moss since he coached him as a
10-year-old in the Gainesville Park and Rec football league.
"It initially started out with us saying, ‘Everybody throw in and let’s raise him a thousand dollars.’ We got to talking about it and telling other people, and all of a sudden they were saying, ‘We want to donate, too.’ And then our phones started ringing."
Waldrip estimated anywhere from 50 to 100 people chipped in on the monetary gift. Donations were still coming after the check was cut. Some $1,100 was put into a contribution box at the restaurant Saturday morning.
"We had a lot of people step up with big contributions," Waldrip said.
Afterward, Moss, 25, said he hasn’t been overwhelmed with what might be called a new local celebrity status.
"It’s been great coming back," Moss said. "It’s not that I’m a celebrity. I know all these people, you know."
"There’s a lot of great people in Hall County and Gainesville, and they take the time out to appreciate not just me, but a lot of soldiers overseas, a lot of young combat veterans who are just coming back," Moss said. "It makes it worthwhile; it makes it feel like I’ve done something right."
Said Waldrip, "We can’t help all the soldiers, but we can help one. And this one’s ours. He deserves it."