Cpl. Robert Taylor 1947-1968

When I wrote about ’64 classmate Gary Schemel being killed in Vietnam, Bill East quickly pointed out that the Class of 1964 had also lost Bobby Taylor in the war.

Sondra Cook chimed in, “Both Gary and Bobby were great guys. Bobby went to Washington Elem. and was a one semester behind me until the infamous Cape summer school when the “B” classes made up the semester of work. Gary moved to Cape when we were in Jr. High. My eyes still tear every time I go to the Vietnam Memorial or see the Visiting Wall and find their names.”

Bob’s name on Freedom Corner

A plaque on a pillar in Capaha Park’s Freedom Corner lists some of Cape Girardeau’s Vietnam casualties. There was some discussion here about other Cape names.

Larry Saddler: “[Gary] was a great guy. I lived within blocks of both Gary and Bob Taylor (also a great guy). Looking back I think they both died for absolutely nothing. I’m a big flag waver, but I think we wasted many lives with that war and I wonder if in the future many supporters will think we are wasting lives in our current conflicts. I think of Gary, Bob, and also Earl Tharp often, wondering what their lives cold have been if they had lived. I’m also thankful they were willing to serve. God bless them all.

[A Missourian story reported Earl Tharp, the 20-year-old son of a Cape Girardeau minister, was killed in June 1970 when enemy mortal fire hit his base camp in Vietnam.]

Burt Lehman: “I remember them both. Bob Taylor was like an older brother. We had great times together. I served in Vietnam and I am proud of my service to my country. The war was won after Tet of 1968, but somehow turned into defeat by media and politics. Gave the NVA and Viet Cong just enough encouragement to carry on the war. We were ultimately fighting “for” each other so I don’t believe that any of us died in vain. We still embrace as brothers no matter what our politics are. I have the greatest respect for Gary and Bob for the sacrifice they made.”

 First flag for Parade of Flags

A Missourian Out of the Past column about a 1987 story said “Early response has been good for a Parade of Flags that will be on display near the war memorial in Cape County Park on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day; the first burial flag turned in as part of the display honored Robert L. Taylor Jr., who was killed in the Vietnam War.

Bob’s brother, Tom, honored his memory

Tom Taylor posted a tribute to his brother on his Facebook page. I asked for permission to reprint the photos and some of Tom’s remarks. Most of these were downloaded from Facebook. Here’s Bob as a Troop 15 Eagle Scout in 1963.

Bob as SEMO student

Tom said that Bob attended Southeast Missouri State College in 1966-67.

Worked as a lineman

Bob’s deep tan was a result of his work as a lineman the summer before he joined the military, Tom said. The picture was taken at his home, probably in 1966.

Bob Taylor in Vietnam

From Tom: Bobby (far right) with his squadmates in Vietnam; probably the last photo of him before his death.

In the 1986 movie  “Platoon,” actor Willam Dafoe played Sgt. Elias and actor Tom Berenger played the scar-faced Sgt. Barnes. Elias treated his men with respect, and took new soldiers under his wing, teaching them how to stay alive. Barnes treated his men with contempt, putting the newest soldiers out front like cannon fodder.

From all accounts, Bobby was like Elias. He always took new soldiers under his wing and taught them how to survive.

Virtual Wall profile

Here is the Bob’s profile on the Virtual Wall. It’s an incredible resource. [The following information is Copyright 1997-2012 www.VirtualWall.org, Ltd.]

PERSONAL DATA: Home of Record: Cape Girardeau, MO; Date of birth: 03/10/1947

MILITARY DATA: Service: Army of the United States; Grade at loss: E3; Rank: Corporal; Note: Posthumous Promotion as indicated; ID No: 56586679; MOS: 11B10: Infantryman; Unit: C CO, 3RD BN, 60TH INFANTRY, 9TH INF DIV, USARV

CASUALTY DATA: Start Tour: 10/31/1967; Incident Date: 03/08/1968; Casualty Date: 03/08/1968; Age at Loss: 20; Location: Dinh Tuong Province, South Vietnam; Remains: Body recovered; Casualty Type: Hostile, died outright; Casualty Reason: Ground casualty; Casualty Detail: Gun or small arms fire

ON THE WALL: Panel 43E Line 062

Bob was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. His citation says, in part, “Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems. The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the Communist threat to its freedom.

“His initiative, zeal, sound judgement and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of the Unite States Army and reflect great credit on him and the military service.”




Gary Schemel: Casualty of Vietnam War

A Facebook friend my age said she had been showing her teenage son her old yearbook. “As we went through it I had to say at several photos ‘this one is dead.’ It was sobering to us both to see those young faces and know that some of them are gone now, some for a long time. But then I remembered his yearbook had two in memory pages. Some die so young and never have a chance at life.”

Gary Schemel 1946 – 1965

While looking for something else, I ran onto an obituary photo of Pfc. Gary Leroy Schemel, who was No. 22 in the photo above of the 1963-64 Conference Basketball Champions.

I remembered that Gary had gone into the service right out of school, and I vaguely remembered that he was one of the first of our classmates to die in Vietnam, but I didn’t know any details.

The Oct. 8, 1965, Missourian story was equally vague. It just gave the date of the funeral and that military rites would be conducted at St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Gary’s name is on Freedom Corner

All of a sudden, it seemed like I was running into Gary’s name all over the place.

When I photographed Cape Girardeau’s Freedom Corner honoring the war dead from World War I onward, I noticed his name.

When Terry Kitchen was telling the story about ghosts at Central High school, he pulled out some of the yellowing championship team photos  he had salvaged from the dumpster, Gary was in two of them: the Conference Basketball Champs above and on the 1964 Conference Track Champions.

1964 Track Champ

Gary is the fourth from the left in the top row.

I couldn’t find anything in the Google News Archives of The Missourian about Gary, but that’s probably because of errors in the index.

Schemel profile on www.virtualwall.org

I did find this profile at The Virtual Wall:

Gary Leroy Schemel

Private First Class


Home of Record: Cape Girardeau, MO

Date of birth: 01/04/1946


Service: United States Marine Corps

Grade at loss: E2

Rank: Private First Class

MOS: 3500: Basic Motor Transport Man

Length Service: 01



Start Tour: ——

Incident Date: 09/26/1965

Casualty Date: 09/26/1965

Age at Loss: 19

Location: Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam

Remains: Body recovered

Casualty Type: Non-hostile, died of other causes

Casualty Reason: Ground casualty

Casualty Detail: Drowned or suffocated

ON THE WALL Panel 02E Line 095


Remembrances on The Wall

The Virtual Wall says that two remembrances have been left on The Wall for Gary:

  • From his niece, Ramona Hobbs: Gary Leroy Shemel was the second oldest of six children, Barbra, Daniel, Donna, Joyce and Randy. He was also survived by his mother Anna. His father passed away from cancer when Gary was a child.
  • A 1932 poem by Mary Frye posted by Bob Ross, a fellow Vietnam veteran:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sun on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die.