Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series about Almont’s Robert Shoemaker.
Upon completion of this third tour of duty in Vietnam, General Shoemaker returned to the States and was stationed at Fort Hood as Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff of the III Corp. While there he was made Deputy Commanding General of MASSTER and promoted to Major General. In January 1973 he was made the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division and made Commanding General of III Corp in March 1975. He was then promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General.
In 1977 he was made Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command and was then promoted to Commander in 1978 and given the rank of General—four-star general. He was Michigan’s first four-star general. Since the beginning of the country, there have only been about 250 four-star generals!
During his time as head of the Army he instituted new training regimens that helped dramatically improve the effectiveness of the training of both regular Army and Reserve Army units.
On March 1, 1982, Robert retired from the Army after 36 years of service. He was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983 and received the West Point Distinguished Graduate Award in 2004. During his Army career he was award a Distinguished Service Metal, a Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantry Badge, and Senior Parachutist Badge.
He retired to a home near Fort Hood, Texas.
His public service would continue. In 1986 he was elected to the Bell County Board of Commissioners and served for eight years. He ran for office because he felt the commission was not doing enough for the area around Fort Hood. When the Army moved 12,000 troops from Fort Polk, Louisiana to Fort Hood, Robert worked to coordinate efforts between the Army and the local government units to smooth this transition. The area around Fort Hood lacked the housing, schools, and support services to accommodate an additional 12,000 soldiers and their families. He pushed to get a four-year college for the Fort Hood area and Texas A&M University—Central Texas was created in the city of Killeen.
He served as president of the Heart of Texas Council of Boy Scouts of America and president of the Fort Hood chapter of the United Way. His community work was recognized by the Frank W. Mayborn Humanitarian Award and the Roy J. Smith Award for community service.
In 2000, the Killeen Independent School District named its newest high school for General Shoemaker, the Robert M. Shoemaker High School. He helped establish the science and engineering academy within the school. Being a school influenced by the nearby military base, it has a Junior ROTC program.
Up until shortly before his death, he was almost a daily visitor to the school and attended most of the school’s sports and extracurricular activities. He referred to the students as his grandchildren.
The school celebrated Robert’s birthday each year. He entered the building through an honor guard of raised sabers.
In May 2013, Bob and his wife,“Tuke,” established the Wolf-Warrior Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Central Texas College Foundation. The scholarship pays full tuition for students to attend two years at Central Texas College and two years at Texas A&M University-Central Texas for students from Robert M. Shoemaker High School.
In 2005 he served as Grand Marshal for Almont’s Centennial Homecoming. He rode a horse provided by Gertie Brooks in the parade. He and Tuke continued to ride well into their late eighties.
In 2008 he donated his ribbons, medals, and awards to the Almont District Library, where they are on display today. At the ceremony honoring his service and donations, he conducted the Almont High School band in the initial performance of the “General Robert Shoemaker March,” which he wrote.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s Homecoming book, “Remembrances of Almont 2020”can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or firstname.lastname@example.org or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.