If you need assistance, please call 254-690-4321

Longtime Central Texas businessman served as a platoon leader in Vietnam

Tuesday, November 10, 2020   /   by Scott Shine

Longtime Central Texas businessman served as a platoon leader in Vietnam

Killeen Daily Herald
John Clark Herald correspondent

Vietnam veteran Bill Shine says he learned a number of valuable life lessons during his time in the military, and some of those came when he was assigned as an aide to a legendary general who first came to fame in World War II.

“While I was at Fort Jackson (South Carolina), I got selected to be an aide to the commanding general, who was Lt. Gen. James Hollingsworth,” Shine, a longtime Harker Heights resident, said. “He was a graduate of Texas A&M, a famous World War II guy, and the third-highest decorated military officer in U.S. history.

“He was tough as nails, and I learned a lot. After I went to work for him, he said, ‘Bill, I’m not going to tell you what time to come to work, but don’t let me ever beat you here.’ So, at six o’clock every morning, I was sitting in that office.

“Sometimes it was pretty close, but I don’t think he ever beat me.”

Shine is a bit of a rarity for central Texas, having been born in Temple and then living nearly his entire 75 years in the Killeen-Harker Heights area.

“Yeah, we’re a rare breed,” he said. “I’ve spent all my life in Killeen and Harker Heights, except for the time I was in college, a year I worked in Dallas after college, and then when I went into the Army.

“So, about an eight-year gap there, but other than that, I’ve been right here.” Shine graduated from Killeen High School in 1963, then headed 300 miles north to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree four years later in business administration, went to work for a year, and then received his draft notice from Uncle Sam.

“Since I already had my college degree, I could volunteer for OCS (officer candidate school) before I had to report for the draft,” Shine said.

“So, I got accepted into OCS, and still had to go to basic training, which I did at Fort Dix, New Jersey. That was in January, which was cold as heck, especially for a Texas boy who hardly even had a jacket.

“I went to Fort Benning, Georgia, for OCS. I was there for eighteen weeks, and from there went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to be a basic training officer, training draftees. Most of those guys were going straight to Vietnam.”

In late December 1969, Shine found himself on a plane headed to Vietnam, where he would soon be leading fellow troops into combat during a one-year tour.

“It was pretty rough,” he said. “When I was on the plane going over there, I wondered how I was going to react (leading troops in war). The first firefight I was in … your adrenaline kicks in, (and) you rely on your training, and you really don’t think about it. You just do what you have to do.

“There was a lot of action, but you find out a lot about yourself. I think I was a good leader. I got back alive, and most of my men — not all, but most — got back alive.”

One of the many memories he has from his time in Vietnam was when a U.S. helicopter pilot spotted what turned out to be a makeshift enemy motor pool in the jungle. First Lt. Shine and his platoon headed that direction, and within a couple of hours located an array of 33 cargo trucks, small pickup trucks, and several Land Rovers — one of which was brand new with only 730 kilometers (453.6 miles) showing on the odometer — along with a stash of vehicle parts including bearings, brake shoes, axles, transmissions, batteries, pistons, a large generator, barrels of gasoline, and cases of motor oil.

Throughout the area, there were underground sleeping quarters with electricity, a mess hall with live chickens and pigs, an estimated 50 tons of bagged rice, first-aid facility, and recreation area with a ping pong table.

“That was during the Cambodia invasion, before the 1st Cav went in there,” Shine said. “I was a platoon leader, and we’re the ones who actually found this NVA motor pool.

“Remember Gen. (Robert) Shoemaker (former Fort Hood commander)? He was assistant division commander of 1st Cav at that time, and he flew in and looked at all the stuff, and he said he wanted all the Land Rovers to go back to our firebase. So, it took us about two days — we had to blow down trees and everything — and we made a caravan and drove those Land Rovers back.

“They used them on the firebase to carry stuff around. I always thought that was pretty neat that we had Land Rovers to drive around.”

After his tour ended in December 1970, Shine came home and left the Army after three years’ service. He might have stayed in longer, but an opportunity to go to work for his dad was too good to pass up.

“I was a first lieutenant and in less than a month, I would have been promoted to captain. But my dad had a Goodyear tire business here in Killeen (Shine Brothers Goodyear), and I had an opportunity to come back here and go into business with him.

“That was in 1971, so I did that until 1998. I had a good opportunity to sell my business and I thought, ‘You know what? This opportunity may not come around again,’ so I decided to go ahead and take advantage of it.”

After nearly three decades selling tires, and his wife of 52 years, Jean, running the highly successful Shine Team Realtors, Bill decided it was time for a change of pace. He went home one day and announced he was getting out of the automotive business.

“I came home and told her, ‘Hey, I made an agreement to sell the Goodyear stores.’

“She said, ‘What do you plan to do now?’

“I said, ‘I’m going to work for you.’

“She said, ‘What are you going to do?’

“I said, ‘I’m going to empty the trash, run the vacuum cleaner, wash the cars …’

“She said, ‘No, it doesn’t work that way. You’re going to get your real estate license, and you’re going to go to work.’

“So, that’s what I’ve done ever since then. Actually now, I’m more in the operations part of the office. I go to work every day, and try to do enough to make it so they’ll keep giving me a (pay)check.”

The father of two, grandfather of two, and longtime civic leader, was among eight area military veterans honored recently with a Congressional Veteran Commendation for outstanding community service.

Over the years, Shine has served on the Central Texas College board of trustees, chairman of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, board of directors for First National Bank Texas and Fort Hood National Bank, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army. Other honors he has received include the Killeen Independent School District distinguished alum award; Fort Hood Good Neighbor Award (with wife, Jean); Outstanding Civilian Service Medal from III Corps and Fort Hood; and the Roy J. Smith Award (with Jean) from the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.

His Army career proved to be short-lived, but Shine says he is proud of his service, and credits the experience he gained there with contributing to his later success.

“I learned discipline, of course, and I definitely learned how to take correction. I really enjoyed my time in the Army, but because of the opportunities I had back here, I decided to get out. I certainly wouldn’t have minded staying in.

“It was definitely a big part of my life,” said Shine, who received a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster for bravery in Vietnam, along with an Air Medal with ‘V’ device. “I learned how to lead people, and how to treat them. The biggest thing is, you always put the soldiers first. If you were going through a chow line or something, you make sure the soldiers get fed first.”