KILLEEN — Shoemaker High School came together with local community members to celebrate retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker’s 90th birthday Feb. 18.
Grey Wolf students were elated to witness the historic birthday of their school’s namesake, shouting out choruses of “happy birthday” as Shoemaker walked the hallways alongside his family.
Following a 1st Cavalry Division horse detachment salute, the general pet the horses and thanked the soldiers for their service.
He then entered the auditorium, gave the salute for JROTC to post the colors and looked on with excitement as a rousing celebration took place, featuring speeches from military leaders, congressmen and school district staff, followed by performances by the high school’s cheerleaders, Grey Wolf band, the Spanish Honor Society and JROTC step team.
Students provided uproarious applause at each mention of his name as the influential community figures described Shoemaker’s years of dedicated service to Fort Hood and Killeen.
Shoemaker spent 36 years in the Army, which saw him lead two 1st Cavalry Division units in Vietnam: 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment and 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment. He served as chief of staff for the 1st Cavalry Division during his third tour of Vietnam, and later, the assistant division commander and commander.
Maj. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, current commander of the division, offered a special message to Shoemaker: “Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker is a true American hero whose contributions to this nation and our Central Texas community are legendary. After decades of exemplary service in the United States Army including command of the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps here at Fort Hood, he settled in Central Texas where he has continued his lifelong dedication to soldiers, families and his fellow citizens of the ‘Great Place.’
“On behalf of America’s First Team, I want to wish Gen. Shoemaker a very happy birthday and all the best to him and his family as they celebrate this very special occasion.”
Shoemaker later went on to command III Corps and Fort Hood in the 1970s. In 1977, he was assigned as deputy commander of U.S. Army Forces Command before becoming its commander. Shoemaker is an inductee into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame.
“On behalf of III Corps and Fort Hood, I’d like to thank Gen. Shoemaker for a lifetime of service to the U.S. Army and the soldiers at Fort Hood,” said Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the current commander of III Corps and Fort Hood. “His service never once stopped, from birth until today.”
Milley cited Shoemaker’s personal heroism, bravery and courage under fire as an inspiration to him, along with his commitment to youth. Milley was a junior in high school when Shoemaker took command at III Corps, he said.
Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., recounted Shoemaker’s storied 36-year military career via video, along with his embodiment of “the guiding principles of duty and honor,” Caslen said. Shoemaker graduated from West Point in 1946.
“He’s your biggest fan,” said U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, to the students, “and (his) commitment to service reflects the best values of Texas.”
U.S. Rep Roger Williams, R-Austin, described the general as a living symbol of service to others and a true hero to the nation.
“He has made our state and nation the best to live and grow up in the world,” Williams said. “I’m honored to be there on a special day to honor a special man.”