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Veteran dedicates life to civic duties

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Robert Sherman

Col. Robert Sherman gives back to the community as a Kiwanian and with his involvement at the Walker Aviation Museum after his own 30-year career in the United States Air Force.

“… If you love your community, you just want to be a part of it and make it a better place to live. …” Sherman said on why he volunteers his time.

Sherman, 76, was born in Coffeeville, Kansas, but grew up in Roswell. He graduated from Roswell High School’s Class of 1961; his mother also taught science and math there.

A fellow Kiwanian, Doug Austin has known Sherman for 10 years from mutually working on civic events and church events.

“Robert is one of the best guys I know,” Austin said. “He loves his community and he loves everything about it. He’s given his whole retirement basically to kind of serving the community in various aspects from the museum to other stuff that he does, so I think he’s a pretty stand-up guy.”

In his youth, Sherman recalled seeing planes in flight near his childhood home when Walker Air Force Base was still operational. Locally known as “the base,” Walker Air Force Base closed in 1967.

“But before that, it was B-29s and B-47s and then B-36, then the B-52s, so I kind of grew up here with all the planes flying overhead, so I guess I was destined to go into the Air Force,” Sherman said.

With family members who served in the Air Force during World War II, Sherman saw joining the military as his own duty, too. He said at New Mexico State University (NMSU), every male student was required to be in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Sherman was commissioned in 1966 and was active duty from 1968 to 1998.

Now Sherman serves on the board of directors for Walker Aviation Museum, currently housed in the Roswell Air Center at 1 Jerry Smith Circle. Future expansion of the museum is within the vision of the board members to include a new, larger location to offer more hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.

Sherman earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from NMSU in 1966 and his Master of Science also in biology in 1968. While working on his master’s, Sherman had the opportunity to work at the Alamogordo Primate Facility. He was assigned to be an aerospace physiologist at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona and instructed and oversaw “human performance” for aircrews.

“A kind of interesting, funny story you won’t find today, when we were seniors taking advanced biology — you walked into class one day and (Roger Luginbill) had a paper sack,” Sherman remembered from his RHS days. “He had a friend who was a doctor up in Albuquerque and a guy got shot in the shoulder with a shotgun. He (the doctor) amputated his arm, so he sent us his arm. So he (Luginbill) pulled out this arm that was in dry ice that had come down on a Greyhound bus. So we spent the next … six weeks coming in early and dissecting a big ol’ muscular human arm. That was something that happened in 1960 and probably, basically would be illegal, or you couldn’t do it, (or) have some problems. Hopefully, the guy gave us his permission to dissect his arm, but who knows. We appreciated whoever he was. So that kind of got me interested in physiology. …”

With his, physiology-focused degree, Sherman said the “highlight” of his career was working with the “high flyers” who flew at 70-80,000 feet to keep their blood from boiling at high altitudes. He worked on the pressure suits, similar to space suits, to keep airmen safe and healthy in flight, also contributed to the SR-71 and U-2 weapon systems and more.

Going on 50 years of marriage, Sherman and his wife Kathleen have lived in Panama, Okinawa and England since they moved 13 times while in the Air Force. The Shermans have one daughter and two grandchildren.

Managing a large medical clinic led Sherman to Malstrom Air Force Base in Montana and then he returned to Roswell in 1998. Though he thought he would be retired, Sherman decided to work as administrative director at the cancer center that is now Kymera Independent Physicians Cancer Center, which he helped start, from 1998-2006 with Dr. Masoud Khorsand.

In his free time, Sherman enjoys cycling, motorcycles, learning about transportation safety and being active. While at college, he biked from Las Cruces to Roswell in two days, a decision that he questions the safety of now. He attends a Bible study group as well as a weekly veterans’ coffee at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center. Sherman and his wife also rescue dogs and cats.

Mentorship is another way Sherman contributes to the community. In the past, he and his wife mentored students from New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy. Supporting youth as they pursue involvement in civic groups and athletics is also important to him.

As a Kiwanian, Sherman is involved in the Bringing Up Grades, or BUG, program and will be working as an advisor with the two high school Key Clubs, Kiwanis for high school students, at RHS and Goddard High School.

Barbara Gomez has known Sherman for 10 years or more from the medical field and Kiwanis, and described him as “a dedicated solider” who does everything with a smile and a “great attitude.”

“… He is the most dedicated volunteer person I’ve ever met,” Gomez said of Sherman. “He works really hard. He takes up tasks all the time. … And so he is constantly working, volunteering for something.”

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.