Robert “Popeye” Carter, seen here in Waco’s 2016 Veterans Day Parade, died Sunday night in a car crash in East Texas.

Robert “Popeye” Carter, a Gulf War veteran and longtime Waco advocate for veterans, died Sunday night in a car crash between Tyler and Palestine, according to multiple people who knew him.

Carter and his wife, Roxanne, were driving back from a Florida vacation when the crash occurred, said DeLisa Russell, director of the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop, where Carter was chaplain.

Details of the crash were unclear Monday afternoon. Roxanne Carter is in an intensive care unit, Russell said.

“When you look at your life, you would want Robert Carter to be on your side,” Russell said. “No matter who you were or what you needed, he would give you the shirt off his back. Even though he had his own aches and pains and illnesses that went along with serving in the Gulf War, he never wanted to miss being here.”

Carter also organized Waco Veterans Day parades. His exact age wasn’t immediately available Monday, though some who knew Carter said he was in his late-50s.

Mary Duty, McLennan County Democratic Party chair and former school teacher, said Carter “kept a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye and had a hug for everybody.”

“Robert could convince you with the best of them that everything was going to be all right,” Duty said while reminiscing about when her son was serving overseas.

Local veteran Bill Mahon was a longtime friend of Carter from their days working at the American Legion. He remembered Carter holding the hands of dying veterans, comforting them until death.

“We both were on a mission,” Mahon said. “We didn’t give it to each other, we just assumed it ourselves — as old soldiers — that taking care of veterans is the number one priority.”

According to the Veterans One Stop website, Carter served three years in the U.S. Army and 20 years in the Army Reserve. He retired as an Army staff sergeant, platoon leader, motor sergeant, heavy equipment operator and truck and tank mechanic, after serving three tours in Germany and three in Central America. Carter was 100 percent disabled.

Phillip Ericksen joined the Tribune-Herald in March 2015 as a sports copy editor. That November, he joined the news team. He has covered higher education, city hall, politics and crime.

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