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Faces of Fort Hood: Shirley Mathews

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Jan 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-18 23:50:26-05

Many veterans find a way to serve their community after they'd spent years serving their country.

That includes Shirley Mathews, a retired U.S. Army veteran who now calls Killeen home.

Her story began in Albany, Ga.

"We lived in a very impoverished area," Mathews said. "You worked hard, you played a little bit, then you slept and it started all over the next day."

With a goal of getting out of Albany and seeing the world, she joined the Army in 1972.

"My first duty station that I was assigned to was Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio with the 507th Medical Evacuation — and I was the first female to be assigned to that unit," Mathews said.

She medically retired after more than 16 years of service and found a new mission, being a foster mom to teenagers who needed a home.

"I found out about foster care and I decided that I wanted to work from home, help kids, and try to give them what they didn't get from their biological family members," said Mathews.

Over nearly three decades, Mathews and her husband have fostered more than 120 kids.

Roslyn Billingsley, 37, was one their first and found a new mom she cherishes to this day.

"She taught me how to cook, how to clean, how to do my hair, and she also taught me how to listen and how to praise the Lord," said Billingsley. "She's my mom — and I love her to death."

Seeing her mom help countless kids, Mathews' biological daughter — Zandra Brown — followed in her footsteps, bringing new grandchildren in the family.

"My grandma, she is the most amazing woman ever," said Cynthia Lunsford-Cook, Brown's now adopted daughter. "She always helps me to boost my energy and my spirit. When ever I have a bad day, she is always there to help me through them."

With that love and spirit, Mathews has a message for her kids out in the world.

"From the bottom of my heart I want to say, 'I love you, God bless you, and may you continue to move forward,'" said Mathews.

Mathews is a U.S. Army veteran who proudly served her country of nearly two decades and has spent every decade since, giving a home and family to children when no one else would.