When Robert Spoede was in elementary school, his teacher asked him a question surely everyone in his or her lifetime has heard, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Immediately Spoede’s first thought was his father who served as a captain in the Civilian Conservation Corp or CCC. When Spoede was ten years old, his father brought him along with a group of CCC officers to give Robert his first exposure to Kyle Field.
“I watched Sammy Baugh play against A&M and Dick Todd was playing for A&M an A&M won the game,” Spoede said, and the more he described the experience, the more he showed just how much football has evolved since then. “I thought that Sammy Baugh was some kind of sissy because all he did was go back and throw the football and never got his uniform dirty because he didn’t run with the ball.”
The experience with his father would have a lasting effect on Spoede. So much so that that it provided him the answer to his teacher’s question.
“I wanted to be like my farther, I admired him greatly. But he would’ve loved to have been in the regular army so I said, “When I grow up, I want to be a captain in the army.”
After going through the Corp of Cadets at Texas A&M, Spoede was scheduled to graduate and be a reserve officer, but a new development would grant Robert his childhood wish.
“They came out one day with the professor saying the army was starting a program called ‘Distinguished Military Graduates’. If you had [a high enough GPA] and if you maintained it until graduation you would be declared a DMG and you would have an opportunity to be commissioned in the army. It was like God’s grace. So I went forward and everything happened, I got what I dreamed of. It was a dream come true.”
Spoede continued a family legacy of graduating from Texas A&M. The tradition began with his grandfather graduating from the third entering class to ever attend A&M in 1881. He trained at Fort Hood and deployed for Vietnam as a Military Advisor. Looking back on his service in Kontum, one bizarre memory sticks out of his mind.
“I remember one time very vividly we got a report—we were separated from the people we were supposed to advise by about 4 or 5 miles on the north side of Kontum—and we got a report that 5,000 bad guys were coming into the north side of Kontum,” Spoede said, and when asked by his senior advisor if he’d want to join, Robert gave an honest answer, “I said, ‘Sir, you used the wrong word. Do I want to go? No. Will I go? Yes.’”
As the two left their, as Spoede puts it, “well-fortified compound,” steeling himself for what could be a perilous mission, Robert looked upon a site he would never forget.
“I looked over my shoulder and there was some people from civilian agencies playing tennis. I thought there was at least a 60% chance that I would be dead in the next 15 minutes and looking over there and seeing people playing tennis and enjoying themselves just seemed very innocuous to me.”
The 40% would work in Spoede’s favor and after his tour in Vietnam, he earned his Master’s degree at Hardin Simmons. Entering the army in 1949, Spoede’s service ended in 1968. After his retirement, Spoede found a second calling as an author.
“I’m a romantic,” Spoede said. The range of his work go from romantic historical fiction to writing the history of the Officer’s Christian Fellowship’s first 40 years of existence.
“I’ve seen the OCF grow from about 400 members to 18,000 members in the armed forces of the United States.”
From serving in the army to a published author, Robert exceeds the biggest dreams of his childhood.