Honored as a "Freshman Legislator of the Year" in 2012 for his work with veterans, state Rep. Lindell Shumake, R-Hannibal, is certainly no stranger to uniformed service and the impact legislation can have on the state's veteran community.
A 1968 graduate of Hannibal High School, Shumake made the decision to enlist in the Army the following year.
"The Army was offering education benefits, and coming from a family of 12, I knew my parents wouldn't be able to afford my college," he said.
"So I just figured I'd do my service first and then go to school."
Completing boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Shumake traveled to Fort Lee, Va., and received six weeks of training as a memorial activities specialist.
According to the veteran, the training provided him a background in the identification of human remains using fingerprinting and dental charts.
He was then assigned to a training group, but soon received orders for 30 days leave and service in Vietnam.
In late summer 1969, he arrived in country and was placed with the 483rd Field Service Company in Long Binh, where his unit processed the remains of U.S. military as well as civilian casualties, enemy soldiers and Vietnamese civilians killed in action.
While still in Vietnam, he became a clerk with a mobile laundry unit, and later served in the mess hall for the remainder of his assignment.
He returned stateside in August 1970 and the following month was sent to Fort Hood, Tex.
"I decided to change my MOS (military occupational specialty) to a military policeman because I was young and it just seemed like an interesting job," he said.
After serving several months in the law enforcement capacity, he was reassigned as a company clerk with an air cavalry company on post.
"That was just one of those moves decided for me," Shumake joked. "Sometimes the Army moves you where they think you're needed."
As the legislator explained, his enlistment was to expire in February 1972; however, he was released two months early because the Army began downsizing as part of a force reduction initiative.
Maintaining his motivation to attend college, Shumake returned to Hannibal and enrolled in Hannibal-LaGrange College, which was at that time a junior college.
While working full time during summers at a local fertilizer plant and various other jobs, he was able to complete his associate's degree in 1974.
He then transferred to Quincy College, and in 1976 earned a bachelor's degree in sociology along with his teaching certificate.
In 1977, he was hired by the state's Division of Family Services and was a caseworker until retiring in 1996.
The owner of a tax service business he continues to operate from his home, Shumake is also an ordained minister with an independent Christian church.
"I've been overseas several times to perform mission work, to include 19 trips to the Philippines, once to Malaysia and back to Vietnam twice," he said.
He entered politics in 2010 when elected as the representative for the state's 6th District, and was recently reelected for a second term in the newly formed 5th District.
During his brief time in office, he has passionately supported legislation affecting veterans, ushering through bills that have prevented thrift stores operated by veteran organizations from closure due to zoning restrictions, and placement of veteran identification symbols on driver's licenses.
Looking back on the lessons provided through his overseas service, Shumake sums up his entire military experience through a quote he heard when mustering out of the Army.
"When I was going through out-processing at Fort Hood, one of the sergeant's told us, "You wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience of your military service, and you wouldn't give a plug nickel to do it again,'" Shumake saidd.
"How true," he added. "Vietnam was certainly a dose of reality and gave me experiences I'll never forget."