The Junior ROTC cadets were more solemn than usual as they carried the U.S. flag out to the flagpole in front of Shoemaker High School on Tuesday.
Fellow students gathered around with teachers and staff to watch as the cadets raised the flag high before lowering it to half-staff in honor of one of their own. At the request of a fallen sailor’s family, the flag would fly in memory of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John Hoagland, a 2015 graduate of Shoemaker High and former battalion executive officer with the JROTC program.
Hoagland is one of the sailors who died aboard the USS John McCain after it collided with an oil tanker Aug. 21. His and nine other sailors’ remains were found in the waters near Singapore after the collision.
Carrying on her husband’s tradition, Tuke Shoemaker, wife of the late Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker, attended the ceremony Tuesday at the school named after her husband. Hoagland, while still a student, acted as escort for Tuke Shoemaker and her husband during their visits.
“John embodied the spirit of what we want all good students to do,” said retired Col. Tom Clady, senior instructor for the Shoemaker JROTC program. “John was very active in school; every time Gen. Shoemaker and his wife came to the school, he actually escorted them around the school. John is what we call a great citizen in Junior ROTC — our mission is to motivate young students to be better citizens, and he embodied that spirit.”
Clady, who started with the Shoemaker JROTC program at the beginning of the school year, said Hoagland’s death was not only a great loss for the nation and the local community, but for the high school as well.
“From my understanding, he was a great student,” Clady said. “He always wanted to join the Navy.”
For retired 1st Sgt. Cleveland Zeigler Jr., the loss hit close to home.
“I had John (as a student) his first year as a cadet, so I knew him the whole four years he was here,” Zeigler said. “He was a very motivated student, always knew he wanted to join the military. He carried himself very well and helped the other cadets.”
Zeigler said hearing of Hoagland’s death on the news was difficult for him.
“It was rough,” he said. “John knew, just like every soldier who joins the military, of the possibility of giving the ultimate sacrifice. John gave (that sacrifice) for his country.”
The flag flying over Shoemaker High School will be presented to Hoagland’s sister during his funeral.
Hoagland will be buried at noon Thursday at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.
Visitation hours are 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Heritage Funeral Home in Harker Heights, 425 E. Central Texas Expressway. A service will begin at 10 a.m., also at Heritage Funeral Home.
The public is invited to attend.