Robert Hallmark may not be able to recall his remarkable military career, but luckily there are others who are happy to share his story.
On Tuesday, during a special Patriots Day ceremony, Hallmark’s military medals were donated to the William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home for display on its Wall of Honor.
Hallmark, 78, an Army colonel and a Vietnam War veteran, has dementia, and his ability to communicate has slipped away. But even before he began to lose his memory he wasn’t keen on reminiscing about his time in military service, said his wife Barbara.
Hallmark, originally from Lampasas, was at LSU on a basketball scholarship when he hurt his ankle. He dropped out his first semester and joined the Army.
While in the Army, Hallmark not only went to Officer Candidate School, he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a master’s in political science at Rutgers University.
During his 22 years as a combat infantry officer, Army Ranger, master aviator and aide to three generals, Hallmark received many awards and commendations.
The award he is most proud of, according to his wife, is the Bronze Star he was awarded during his third tour in Vietnam, for his effort to find and bring home three soldiers missing in Cambodia.
Hallmark learned that the U.S. was preparing to pull out of Vietnam, and he received permission from his commander to enter Cambodia, with the understanding that if he was caught the Army didn’t know him.
Disguised as a monk and traveling on a motorcycle, Hallmark spent three weeks in Cambodia searching for the soldiers. He never found them.
“He came up short there, and he always regretted it,” Mrs. Hallmark said.
One assignment Hallmark truly treasured, she said, was his time as commander of the 3rd Infantry Regiment Old Guard, the oldest active infantry unit in the Army.
The Old Guard is the Army’s elite ceremonial unit. It handles presidential ceremonies, guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and escorts funeral processions at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The military was the love of his life,” Mrs. Hallmark said. “It was everything to him.”
Hallmark’s first wife and the mother of his twin daughters gave him an ultimatum, she said, accept another deployment to Vietnam or remain married. He chose deployment.
Her husband, Mrs. Hallmark said, decided to retire when he was offered a promotion that would have put him in the Pentagon.
“He said if he couldn’t serve with his men, it was time for him to go, and he retired,” she said.
Robert and Barbara Hallmark met at Sun City in Georgetown and married in 2000.
Mrs. Hallmark said she and her husband played tennis and golf. He was also active in the governance at Sun City.
“We traveled an awful lot,” she said. “We went on at least 10 cruises.”
Prior to her marriage, Mrs. Hallmark owned a travel agency in Dallas. The couple’s favorite cruise destinations included Polynesia, and those that circumnavigated Australia and South America.
While Hallmark doesn’t connect with people much anymore, he did take on the role of commander a few months ago when a group of soldiers who had just returned from Kuwait visited the veterans home, said Carolyn Rumfield, Courtney Home activities director.
“Alzheimer’s is a dreaded disease, and we fight it every day, but there are beautiful moments,” Rumfield said.