SALEM — It’s been a decade since Shawn Hogan graduated from Salem High School, but those who knew him said they will never forget the bright young man who stood out from the crowd.
Hogan, a 2002 Salem High graduate and valedictorian of his class at Virginia Military Institute, was killed Wednesday during a training exercise in Golden Pond, Ky., while stationed with the 5th Special Forces Group at nearby Fort Campbell. The U.S. military did not announce his death until yesterday afternoon.
Hogan was riding an all-terrain vehicle up a steep hill when it flipped over on top of him at the Land between the Lakes National National Recreational Area. His comrades carried him out of the isolated area and rushed him to a waiting ambulance, but he died of multiple injuries shortly later, Trigg County coroner John Mark Vinson said.
The 28-year-old Army captain was fondly remembered yesterday at Salem High as a sharp-minded, independent student who clearly stood out from the rest.
He is the fifth recent Salem High graduate to die while serving his country. The others include three members of the Class of 2003 — Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Moscillo, Marine Cpl. Nicholas Arvantis and Army Pfc. Michael Cook — and Sgt. Edmond Lo of the Class of 2004.
“He had such potential,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Delahanty said of Hogan.
Delahanty, the school’s principal at the time, said Hogan was a strong student who would have excelled in any career he chose. He was also the type of person who bridged gaps between social groups, Delahanty said.
Hogan was a perfect role model, and there wasn’t anyone he didn’t like or wouldn’t help, Delahanty said.
“He just had a wide circle of friends,” he said. “He would help anyone and do anything for any reason.”
Delahanty said he probably best remembers Hogan for his self-confidence and love for former cross-country coach Robert Rhoades, who died in March 2006.
“He was an unassuming young man,” Delahanty said. “He had a very strong, independent mind.”
Delahanty said he last spoke to Hogan, who captained the Blue Devils cross-country team, at the time of Rhoades’ death.
That was shortly before Hogan graduated from VMI as a Rhodes and Marshal Scholar finalist and his class’s valedictorian.
Hogan, a mechanical engineering major, would share the stage with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as he gave his valedictory speech in May 2006.
He placed seventh out of 3,600 in an Army ROTC competition, and won an award for the best thesis in science and engineering. Hogan was also captain of VMI’s cross-country and track teams.
Salem High teacher and assistant track coach Ben Adams said he was shocked when he heard the news yesterday of Hogan’s death.
“I was stunned,” he said. “It’s been on my mind all day.”
Adams remembered Hogan as a fun-loving, but serious student enrolled in Advanced Placement classes.
“He was a very, very funny kid,” Adams said. “I can still remember and hear his laugh.”
It was no surprise Hogan went on to become successful, he said.
“He was a real hard worker,” Adams said. “I think that is evident by what he’s done since he left Salem High School.”
Like Delahanty, Adams remembered Hogan and his tight relationship with Rhoades. The two had a special relationship and respect for each other, he said.
Salem Selectmen’s Chairman Patrick Hargreaves said he remembered when Hogan and his son, Christopher, were good friends as children.
“They grew up together,” he said. “He was a stand-up, take-charge kind of guy.”
Hogan is the son of Richard and Jean Hogan of Salem, and has a sister, Nicole Hogan, also of Salem.
A woman who answered the phone at the Hogan home yesterday said the family did not wish to comment, referring all calls to Maj. Gregory Heilshorn, a public affairs officer for the New Hampshire National Guard.
A statement released on the family’s behalf said they best remember Hogan as a “natural leader and driven student-athlete who easily befriended others.”
Hogan’s parents described him as an avid marathoner and rock climber, who loved hiking, skiing and reading.
Hogan decided to join the military while in high school and originally wanted to become a Marine, according to his father. After graduating from VMI, he was stationed at Fort Drum in New York. His accolades there included serving as a platoon leader and executive officer.
He and a comrade teamed up to win the Army’s Best Sapper competition — a 52-hour competition involving 68 of the Army’s best combat engineers. They finished second the previous year.
Hogan was sent to Iraq with his battalion in June 2009. After returning, he became a Green Beret earlier this year and was a detachment commander with the Special Forces’ Company B, 4th Battalion.
His girlfriend, Karree Emmons of Clarksville, Tenn., said Hogan had a special affection for those he led.
“He genuinely cared about his team,” she said. “They were like his brothers. He knew when it was time to be in charge, but he always treated people as equals. He was a great example of a leader.”
Hogan’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the Army Service Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with one Campaign Star, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Sapper Tab, the Ranger Tab, the Special Forces Tab and the Parachutist Badge.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend visiting hours tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. at Douglas & Johnson Funeral Home in Salem. A funeral service is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Mary Queen of Peace Church in Salem.