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For God, Family and Country
Need to Serve Guides UCSD Veteran of the Year

By Ioana Patringenaru | November 13, 2006

Robert Beiner
Robert Beiner

He was born on D-Day. He belonged to the Boy Scouts of America for 25 years. He served in the Army for 30 years.

Looking back, Robert Beiner says it seems he was destined for service in general and for the military in particular. Last week, UCSD rewarded him for all his efforts by recognizing him as the campus’ Veteran of the Year.

“He’s an all-around good soul and we’re very proud of his achievements,” said Edna Fugazzi, a founding member of UCSD’s Veterans Association, who nominated Beiner for the award.

There’s more to the man than just his military service, she pointed out. He has recently become a deacon in the Catholic Church and does charitable work in his parish, Saint John the Evangelist in Encinitas, and in the surrounding community. In the past five years, he also has worked as a volunteer at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, The Elizabeth Hospice in Escondido and VITAS Innovative Hospice in San Diego. He has been serving as an assistant chaplain at the Vista Detention Facility. 

“He is a great believer in helping others,” Fugazzi said.

Beiner simply says he always felt the need to give and serve for the greater good.

He quotes his family motto: “Pro Deo, Familia, Patria,” which translates “For God, Family, Country” and which he crafted himself. His wife sometimes complains family slips behind country – and he can’t really argue with that, he said jokingly.

Asked why he decided to serve, Beiner talks about his uncles who fought in World War II. He also quotes President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Beiner enlisted in 1969 during the Vietnam War, knowing full well he could be sent into combat. He went to Okinawa instead. Beiner served on the Japanese island until 1971. He moved to San Diego in 1972.

He then served in the U.S. Army Reserve until December 1999, when he retired as a colonel. During that time, he was handed some high-level, high-pressure jobs. As commander of the 139th Ordnance Battalion in Torrance, he oversaw the deployment of some of his units during the first Gulf War. He also cared for his men’s families. That included getting calls in the middle of the night from people who said they were going to get evicted because they couldn’t pay the rent. His wife, Elizabeth, headed a family support group. One day, Beiner was driving to the reserve center in Tustin, when a feeling of love for the U.S. Army and what it does to protect the United States came over him. He recalls thinking “I’m glad that I’m a part of it.” The emotional experience was so overwhelming that Beiner said he had to pull over.

Later, he received an assignment as director of the Crisis Action Team at Southern Command in Miami. “I had the White House on one button and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the other,” is how he describes the job. There, he oversaw the deployment of troops to rescue victims of Hurricane Mitch, in Honduras and Nicaragua, and victims of Hurricane George on several Caribbean Islands in 1998. He often took the night shift, so active duty personnel could go home and rest, he said.

His years of service earned him several major decorations, including two Army Commendation Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals and The Legion of Merit.

Beiner also juggled a full-time job with his military duties, while he and Elizabeth raised their four daughters. He worked at NCR, Solar, and Rohr Industries for 22 years as a certified internal auditor. For the past 12 years, he has worked at UCSD as a certified internal auditor and certified purchasing manager. He currently works at the Scripps Institution of Oceanorgaphy at UCSD. Doing his job is serving too, Beiner said.

“Our motto down here is ‘how many people can we help today’,” he said.

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