By Todd Martin
The Shoemaker High School Junior ROTC honor guard honored one of their own - the epitome of a great student, a scholar, an athlete and a leader – during a brief, somber ceremony at the front of the school.
At the request of the family of the late Petty Officer 2nd Class John Hoagland, the small contingent of uniformed students raised and lowered to half-mast an American flag Tuesday.
Retired Col. Tom Clady, in his first year as senior SHS JROTC instructor, didn’t know Hoagland, but he’s heard plenty.
After the student honor guard raised the flag, Clady gathered a group of curious students to come closer and he explained what was happening.
He told them John was a student at Shoemaker High School and graduated in 2015, that he joined the U.S. Navy and that he died on active duty last month.
“He embodied the spirit of all good students,” Clady said, noting that the young man who rose to the rank of executive officer of the JROTC battalion his senior year, volunteered for extra duty and gladly escorted the Shoemakers when they visited the school.
Speaking to the media, the senior instructor said the young man made it clear he always wanted to be in the Navy. “Anytime you lose a service member, it’s a great loss,” he said.
Retired 1st Sgt. Cleveland Zeigler, a JROTC instructor at Shoemaker who knew Hoagland all four years he was a student, said the high-achieving young man stood out.
“He was a motivated student,” Zeigler said. “He knew he wanted to be in the military. It was rough to hear the news. I kept hoping he would make it.”
Clearly moved, the instructor who watched the strong, dedicated student grow through four years of high school said those who knew him can “take solace knowing he served his country.”
“It’s an honor the family thought enough of Shoemaker High School and the program here to make this request,” he said. “We want to make sure the cadets know he was a cadet here and that he served in STEM and other organizations.”
Hoagland, the first SHS JROTC cadet to pass away on active duty was one of 10 Navy sailors recovered following a collision aboard the USS John McCain.
The U.S. Navy provided the flag used in the ceremony at Shoemaker High School and it will be presented to the Hoagland family at the funeral.
The public is welcome to attend the funeral at noon Thursday at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
September 12, 2017