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Residents: Gen. Shoemaker’s death leaves void

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Thousands are expected to attend the funeral Wednesday of renowned local legend Robert Morin Shoemaker, a retired four-star general and one of the most recognizable figures in the Killeen-Fort Hood area.

Reactions to the death of Shoemaker, 93, a Nolanville area resident, continued to resonate throughout the community Saturday.

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Robert Shoemaker, shown in this undated photo, will be buried Wednesday.

Shoemaker died peacefully from natural causes, surrounded by close family members, at 11:55 p.m. Wednesday at Seton Medical Center Harker Heights.

Several viewers seeing the article on the Herald’s Facebook page commented on what Shoemaker meant to them.

Facebook user Missy Johnson said, “Sad, but what a life this man lived. His legacy will forever be remembered.”

John Acevedo Sr. said, “I’m so glad I had the honor and privilege to meet this great man.”

Stacy Boyer said, “This man was amazing! He will definitely be missed. My three girls truly adored him and all he did for his namesake school Shoemaker.”

Normis Flores-De la Rosa said, “Thank you for your service and (for) doing so much for the schools and the kids at Shoemaker High School.”

Nikki Gray said, “My daughter just graduated from Shoemaker High School and it’s sad to know they were the last class to see him walking across the stage and hug him.”

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Vietnam War veteran Gene Hunter, far right, shakes retired Gen. Robert Shoemaker’s hand after receiving a Vietnam Veteran Medal from retired Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor and retired Lt. Gen. Don Jones, left, during a Central Texas Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army’s general membership meeting at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

Shoemaker spent 36 years in the Army, and led two 1st Cavalry Division units in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment and the 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.

He was the commander of III Corps and Fort Hood in the 1970s.

FUNERAL SERVICES

Funeral services for Shoemaker will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, 3601 S. W.S. Young Drive.

Burial with full military honors will follow at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.

Visitation is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home in Killeen, 1615 S. Fort Hood St.

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Robert Shoemaker

Memorial gifts in lieu of flowers may be made in Shoemaker’s memory to any of the following foundations: Killeen Independent School District Foundation, 1st Cavalry Division Association, Central Texas College Wolf Warrior Endowed Scholarship or the Texas A&M University Centex Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund.


Accomplishments

1941: Graduated in a class of 23 from Almont High School in rural Michigan.

1942: Enlisted in the Navy V-12 officer training program while a pharmacy student at the University of Grand Rapids. He switched to the Army a few weeks before entering active duty in the Navy by accepting an appointment to West Point earned through a competitive examination.

1946: Graduated from West Point, commissioned in the I infantry and attended Basic and Advanced basic and advanced courses, as well as parachute and gliderman training at Fort Benning, Ga.

1948: Married Tuke Rickard in Germany.

1949-1953: Commanded four infantry companies; a rifle company in the 1st Infantry Division in Germany in 1949-50, rifle and heavy weapons companies for a year each in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1951-52, and a rifle company in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea in 1953.

1958: Attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, followed by pilot training at Fort Rucker.

1962: Assigned to Vietnam to test an armed Mohawk unit.

1963: Returned to Fort Benning to serve as operations and training staff officer of the 11th Air Assault Division.

1965: Deployed to Vietnam and commanded, in succession, the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry and the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry.

1969: Returned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam as chief of staff, Chief of Staff, and after promotion to brigadier general, as Assistant Division Commander assistant division commander.

1970: Task Force Shoemaker, a combined force of eight U.S. and three Vietnamese maneuver battalions, made the initial U.S. incursion into Cambodia in May 1970.

In July 1970, he began a 7½-year tour at Fort Hood, serving successively as chief of staff at III Corps; commander of MASSTER; commander of the 1st Cavalry Division.

1975: Served as commander of III Corps.

1978: Served four years as commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga.

1982: Retired from the Army.

December 1994: Completed eight years as an elected county commissioner of Bell County.

Mid-1980s: Served for three years as president of the 12-county Heart O’Texas Council of the Boy Scouts.

2000: Killeen Independent School District named a new school Robert M. Shoemaker High School in his honor.

Shoemaker earned numerous decorations and awards from the military, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster.


Reactions 

“We all called him Uncle Bob,” said Ann Haller, Shoemaker’s niece, a Fair Hill, Maryland, resident.

She said her uncle had “always been a thinker and a community-minded person,” a trait he learned from his parents. Shoemaker’s mother was a school teacher and later a school board member, one of the first women school board members in Michigan, said Haller, 54.

Haller said Shoemaker was a champion of education and believed people could achieve goals if they made the commitment.

“You wanted to do the very best for him,” she said.

Military Reactions

Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the current III Corps and Fort Hood commander, made the following statement on behalf of the Central Texas Army community:

“We join the entire Central Texas community and our Army in mourning the loss of a great general, dynamic leader, philanthropist, and friend. General Shoemaker was an accomplished III Corps and Forces Command commander, a pillar of the community, and an inspiration to us all. We will truly miss him.”

The U.S. Army Forces Command headquarters issued the following statement on Shoemaker’s death:

“We extend our condolences and thoughts to the Shoemaker Family and family friends on the passing of Gen. Robert Shoemaker. He was a visionary Army leader and his vision continues to inspire the U.S. Army Forces Command and our Army. He implemented the Department of the Army’s CAPSTONE program, designed to enhance training effectiveness within the Reserve Component. General Shoemaker directed the initial alignment of Reserve Component units with Forces Command active-component units to form more effective training partnerships. These partnerships remain a key component of today’s Army readiness. His leadership legacy of teamwork and mission command continues to shape Army officers, soldiers and Army units throughout U.S. Army Forces Command.”

Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer also issued a statement on Shoemaker’s death:

“With the passing of Gen. (Ret.) Robert Shoemaker, the Army and our nation lost a decorated leader, mentor, advocate and friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones. We should never forget his leadership during one of the most difficult times in our nation’s history.”

School, city, county and other leaders also reacted to the news of Shoemaker’s death.

Killeen ISD’s Superintendent John Craft: “We will graciously celebrate the life and legacy of General Robert M. Shoemaker and the impact he has had on our community and our school district, which will be felt for many years to come.”

U.S. Rep. John R. Carter: “Erika and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of retired General Robert Shoemaker this morning. General Shoemaker’s service to our great nation spanned over five decades. He served with honor and integrity earning numerous awards including the Distinguished Service Award, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. He served in multiple battles, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War and during the Cold War. In addition to his outstanding military service, General Shoemaker served the Ft. Hood community and all of Bell County. He was a former Bell County Commissioner, an avid volunteer for the Heart of Texas Boy Scouts and for Central Texas United Way.”

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams: “The people of Central Texas are a family and Gen. Shoemaker has left a legacy that will forever be felt throughout the community. He was a patriot, and I am humbled to have had the honor to know him and call him a friend. This is a great loss not only for the Fort Hood area, but for all of America.”

Bell County Judge Jon Burrows: “He leaves behind the military legacy, and he served as Bell County commissioner for eight years. ... He was always involved in community projects. He was a good public servant and a good friend.”

Bell County Commissioner John Fisher: “The legacy he leaves behind is the affordable educational opportunity to anyone who chose to take it. ... He was a dedicated, hard-working and selfless person who was willing to give anything it took to his community.”

Gatesville City Manager Bill Parry: “We have a gaping hole in our hearts and our region, but Gen. Shoemaker would charge us to carry on. There was no one who could build and convene a team to tackle tough issues better than Gen. Shoemaker.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Dave Palmer of Belton called Shoemaker “a really great servant of the country for more than 30 years. ... He set the standard for a lifetime of service.”

Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra: “Gen. Shoemaker was a great leader who after retiring from the military became a great servant to our community. He will be remembered as a great leader and a great servant to all the Central Texas area.”

Killeen Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Crutchfield: “(Shoemaker) was on my board of directors when I came here. Gen. Shoemaker always took the time to keep me grounded, telling me not what I wanted to hear but what I needed to hear. ... And, he could do that in a very few well-chosen words.”

Jean Shine, Harker Heights resident and civilian aide to the secretary of the Army: “Our nation lost a great soldier, Central TX lost a great leader, and we lost a great friend. Please keep Mrs. Shoemaker in your thoughts and prayers.”

jdowland@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7464

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