Retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker celebrated his 90th birthday at his namesake school, Robert M. Shoemaker High School, on Tuesday morning alongside staff, students and community members excited to share in his historic celebration.
As Shoemaker walked through the hallways — decked out in bright blue balloons and streamers — students shouted “happy birthday.”
Following a private breakfast in the library with Shoemaker’s friends and family, the group convened outside the building for a 1st Cavalry Division horse regiment salute and a performance of the national anthem.
The crowd then filed into the auditorium for a rousing celebration of Shoemaker’s life and career.
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.
He was the commander of III Corps and Fort Hood in the 1970s. In 1977, he was assigned as deputy commander of U.S. Army Forces Command before becoming U.S. Army Forces Command commander. Shoemaker is an inductee into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame.
His family filled the front row of the auditorium, and the students provided uproarious applause at each mention of his name as a number of influential community figures described Shoemaker’s years of dedicated service to Fort Hood and Killeen. In between, the audience enjoyed performances by Shoemaker High School groups including the cheerleaders, Grey Wolf band, the Spanish Honor Society and JROTC step team.
“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. 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. Shoemaker graduated from West Point in 1946.
U.S. Reps. Roger Williams, R-Austin, and John Carter, R-Round Rock, both praised Shoemaker’s commitment to youth.
“He has made our state and nation the best to live and grow up in the world,” said Williams, describing the general as a living symbol of service to others. Williams had a flag flown over the U.S. Capital on Tuesday in Shoemaker’s honor, which he plans to present to him in the near future.