Retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker celebrated his 93rd birthday Friday with about 2,000 of his “Greywolf grandchildren” at a lunchtime party at the school that bears his name.
The general, with his wife Tuke and their escorts, stepped beneath a Junior ROTC cadet honor guard in front of the Shoemaker High School building.
The group walked up the long sidewalk, into the front door and made their way to the school cafeteria, where hundreds of students gathered for lunch waited and cheered his arrival.
The school choir sang and numerous school organizations presented the general gifts as he sat with his wife at a table set up on the cafeteria stage. Repeatedly, the guest of honor asked students their names and their plans for the future.
At one point, Shoemaker took the microphone and thanked the students. He told them he loved them and said he’s on his way to 100 and maybe 110.
The school’s Silver Stars dance team performed as well as the Pandemonium steel drum corps while guests dined on the stage.
Principal Sandra Forsythe said the occasion remains a huge one on the school calendar. She said this year’s celebration was designed so the general could see as many of the 2,100-plus students as possible and as many students as possible could see him.
“Gen. Shoemaker calls these students his grandchildren,” Forsythe said. “He does so much for this school. We celebrate life with him.”
“It’s special because the general supports us,” said senior Siasja Washington, who represented the JROTC battalion. “This is another year I get to decorate for the general and celebrate with him.”
Cherith Hicks, representing the freshmen class, said the general continues to inspire students.
“He is the reason our school is our school,” she said. “It’s amazing our school is named for a general and it’s amazing he is 93 years old. We think he is phenomenal.”
Born in Michigan in 1924, Shoemaker attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, trained as an infantry soldier, married in 1948, earned his aviator’s wings and distinguished himself in the world of helicopter air assault.
Shoemaker served three tours in Vietnam and eventually commanded the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps.
Upon retirement, he served as a Bell County commissioner and helped lead the community’s efforts to bring a four-year university to the area. In 2000, Killeen ISD named one of two new high schools for the longtime leader.
While the facts of Shoemaker’s career impress students, it’s his personal presence that inspires them.
“He’s the backbone of the school,” said senior Evan Poe of the Science National Honor Society. “He gives us pride. He inspires us to make him proud. We have immense respect for him.”