KILLEEN — A proud Texan, who didn’t have an ounce of malice in his body. A focused enlisted surface warfare specialist, who worked hard and earned himself a promotion ahead of schedule. Petty Officer 2nd Class John Hoagland III was remembered by the people who knew him best at his funeral service on Sept. 14.
Hoagland, a U.S. Navy sailor and Shoemaker High School graduate, was scheduled for a promotion just a day after he died. On Thursday before his funeral, he posthumously got that promotion.
Hoagland was promoted from Petty Officer 3rd Class to Petty Officer 2nd class in an awards ceremony prior to the funeral services. He had completed his surface warfare qualification training in just nine months, according to Capt. Victor Granados, his commanding officer, at Hoagland’s funeral. Training usually takes 15 months.
“He always had a positive attitude, always had a smile, and he always came with a joke,” Granados said. “Overall, he was just a great sailor.”
At least 30 sailors from the U.S. Navy were on hand for Hoagland’s funeral service and burial at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. Around 100 people were there to pay respects to the 2015 Shoemaker graduate. He received a 21 gun salute, and “Taps” was played on a bugle before the burial concluded.
Hoagland died aboard the USS John McCain after it collided with an oil tanker. He was one of 10 sailors whose remains were found in the waters near Singapore after the Aug. 21 collision. He was in his living quarters when the collision happened, because he felt ill, Granados said. The morning collision punctured a large hole in the port side of the McCain, flooding several compartments, including the living quarters.
Hoagland’s funeral was at Heritage Funeral Home in Harker Heights.
One of Hoagland’s closest friends in the Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class Dan Burkett, stood before everyone at the funeral service and told the story of one of his earliest memories of his friend. A commanding officer asked everyone in a room to introduce themselves and say where they were from. When it came Hoagland’s turn to answer, he puffed up his chest and proudly announced that he was from Texas: the greatest country in the world.
Everyone in the room laughed except for Hoagland, Burkett said. When the officer asked if he meant the greatest state, Hoagland clarified that he meant what he said.
“That was a lot of people’s first impression of John,” he said. “He was proud of his roots.”
Long before his time in the Navy, Hoagland knew he wanted to join the military, according to his mother, Cynthia Hoagland. His stepfather, Phil Kimball, is an active-duty U.S. Army soldier, who is stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“Most of us have no idea what we want to do when we’re 5 years old,” said Kelly Reed, Hoagland’s aunt. “Like many, I had no idea what my purpose was. But (Hoagland) knew he wanted to be a member of the military from a young age.”
His cousin Stephen Sullivan said that they both loved the song “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue,” and remembered belting out every word at the top of his lungs during a four-hour drive to Houston when they were younger. That song played at the Heritage Funeral Home during visitation hours.
“Maybe it was just so he could yell ‘We’ll put a boot in your ass’ and get away with it,” Sullivan said with a laugh.
Hoagland lived in Killeen for 11 years. He grew up in an Army family playing youth football, and joined Junior ROTC once he got to high school.
In a Facebook post published on June 13, Hoagland talked about how pleased he was with his decision to choose the Navy over other branches of the military.
“Man, I still can’t get over just looking out over the ocean, or staring up at all of the stars at night,” Hoagland wrote on his Facebook page earlier this summer. “I think those two things are at the top of my list of favorite reasons for going Navy over any other branch.”
After the funeral service, members of the Patriot Guard accompanied the procession and held American flags around the perimeter of the burial site. When Hoagland’s body flew into the Austin airport, between 25 and 30 motorcycles were on the tarmac, escorting him home.
“You have a young kid, 20 years old, who’s just starting his career,” said Hank Bettis, a member of the Patriot Guard. “That’s a sad thing. He still gave the ultimate sacrifice. That’s what you do when you join.”
Hoagland’s family was presented with a Commendation Medal, given to him posthumously. The medal is awarded to someone for sustained acts of heroism.
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