By Todd Martin

Special to the Daily Herald

Already an honored community leader, military hero and inspiration to thousands of high school students, retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker and his wife, Tuke Shoemaker, are now Friends of Education.

The Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees named the Shoemakers Friends of Education during a board meeting Tuesday.

The retired general graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He earned aviator's wings in 1960 and was part of the design and testing of attack helicopter tactics, according to a biography.

He served multiple combat tours in Vietnam, was chief of staff for III Corps and commander of FORSCOM. The 36-year Army veteran was also inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame.

Locally, he served on the Bell County Commissioners Court and chaired the Howdy Task Force during redeployment of 12,000 soldiers from Fort Polk, La., to Fort Hood.

He also helped lead a task force resulting in creation of Texas A&M University-Central Texas.

In 2000, the Killeen school board named a high school after him.

Since then, the Shoemakers have been continual supporters of the school, attending events and serving as mentors in a variety of ways.

In one of numerous honors, Shoemaker students, faculty and parents presented a permanent tribute in February to the retired general as a surprise 88th birthday present.

At that ceremony, student council president Naomi Cruz said, "We're truly grateful for all you've done. We love you, General Shoemaker."

Following the ceremony, Cruz said, "He actually cares about us. We aren't just students to him. He sees us as family."

Shoemaker Principal Ron Gray called the school's namesake a giant in the military, the community and in education. "He attends almost every event we have. Teens gravitate to him. He's a giant, he's a patriot, he's a hero."

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