During my time as a military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald, I often had the opportunity to speak to Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker — quite often, in fact.
If it was a military-related event or had something to do with the children of our area, there you would find him.
Whether I was going to interview him or not, I always took the time to stop by and say hello to him. Even in a wheelchair, and usually accompanied by his wife Tuke and assistant Leslie Francis, the man was constantly on the go and doing what he loved best — talking to people.
His eyesight wasn’t the best, nor was his hearing, so anytime I would go up to say hello I would get a very loud, very hearty “Come closer! I can’t see you!” And when the general said that, well, you just automatically did what he told you to do.
Shoemaker had a mind as sharp as a surgical knife, even at the age of 93. When he talked, people listened. And when people talked, he listened to them as well. He didn’t care if you were a politician, a journalist, a general or a private — when you were talking to him, he treated you as if you were the most important person in the world at that particular moment.
It was always a pleasure and a delight to have a conversation with him, and I can say I had honestly hoped this day would have been several years in coming. I’m going to miss the opportunity to have those conversations, as short as sometimes they were.
God bless, General. We’ll see you soon on Fiddler’s Green.
DAVID A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military correspondent for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.