Toledo school to honor Purple Heart recipientWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Army Capt. Rob Beat was only three weeks from the end of his second deployment in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb rocked the armored vehicle he was riding in.
All seven soldiers inside survived the blast, but three, including Beat, were injured. Days later, they were presented with Purple Hearts while recovering at a base hospital.
On Dec. 17, Beat’s alma mater, Emmanuel Christian School (ECS) in Toledo, was scheduled to honor the Sylvania man with its second annual Alumni in Action award.
The award was created to recognize alumni who are ministering to others through their actions in secular settings, said Cindy Edwards of the department of music and technology. The school already has a similar award honoring alumni serving in Christian fields.
“Obviously, he has ministered to others just by his dedication to his country and his service through the reserves,” Edwards said. “It’s a real opportunity for students to see what past students are doing and we greatly encourage patriotism here at the school so this is a great opportunity to do both.”
The event, a schoolwide assembly that is open to the public, is set for 2:15 p.m. Dec. 17 at the high school gym, 4607 Laskey Road, and will run about 20 minutes, Edwards said. Beat will speak and a pep rally will follow.
“I feel very honored,” said Beat, who uses crutches as he continues to rehabilitate his foot, which was badly broken in two places. “They don’t have to do this. Obviously, I’m very proud of my military service and to be honored in any way for that makes me proud. But I’m sure there are others more deserving.”
Beat, who attended ECS from kindergarten through 12th grade, said he will talk about his experiences as a Christian in the Army.
“I’ve never been in a format where I can talk about the Army from a Christian perspective,” Beat said. “Not that you can’t talk about Christianity or God in the Army, but for a certain extent you just don’t. Except for chaplains, it doesn’t fall into the normal workday.”
He also wants to thank the ECS community for the prayers, support, calls and e-mails to his parents after he was injured.
The ceremony will be the first time Beat will be back at the school since graduating in 1997.
“It’ll be fun to walk the halls and just see everyone again,” Beat said. “I’m kind of nostalgic that way. I’m sure it will bring back a lot of memories.”
ECS athletic director Dave Regnier wrote in an e-mail that Beat, who played soccer, baseball and basketball, left a legacy beyond sports at the school.
“Robbie was always a caring and diligent student who gave his best effort in whatever he did,” Regnier wrote. “He was a stellar athlete in three sports, but the thing that marked him in all of his endeavors, whether athletics, school work or service at our church, was that he did it all with great effort and a kind heart.”
Jenifer Christiaanse, who was Beat’s high school Spanish teacher, said he was “one of the good guys.”
“I heard about it (the IED) after knowing he was fine — otherwise my heart would have stopped,” Christiaanse said.
On this deployment, the 32-year-old Beat worked as a civil affairs officer in the northern part of Afghanistan’s Konar Province with the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Whitehall, Ohio. He trained and mentored local leaders on providing essential services, like health clinics, clean water and school buildings, through the elected government instead of relying on American aid. He also helped with disaster aid after a flood.
“It was a very challenging job as you can imagine,” Beat said. “After nine years of being there, I think the Afghanis have gotten used to us giving them things. But it was rewarding because some guys actually did get it and they wanted to take the ball and run with it. So in that sense I think I had a successful mission, but there was so much more I wish I could have done.”
At the time of the blast, Beat was nearing the end of his 10-month noncombat mission, riding in the last truck in a convoy and training his replacement.
“I like to say that in addition to showing him the countryside and locals, I figured I’d show him an IED, too,” joked Beat, quickly adding that the soldier was not injured.
The heavily armored vehicle, which was lifted off the ground, is designed to deflect the shockwave of an IED.
“It did its job,” Beat said. “That thing saved our lives.”
Beat said the explosion lasted only a few seconds, but felt like slow-motion.
“The first thing I noticed was that the bomb didn’t sound as loud as I would have thought, so at first I was like ‘What was that?’ Maybe because my hearing was messed up for a second,” Beat said. “But when I realized we were up in the air, I had time in my own mind — because it felt like a long time — to reason that it was an IED, that we might roll over and to do the steps that were drilled into us over and over. I remember putting my hands on the ceiling and pressing my feet to the floor to make sure I stayed in my seat. When I slammed back down to the ground, that’s when I broke my foot. At that point we all knew what happened.”
Finding the back door blocked, the soldiers turned to evaluating injuries. Luckily none were life-threatening.
“A couple people were going in and out of consciousness, which had us a little worried,” Beat said. “They could have been going into shock, so we knew we had to get out of the vehicle quickly.”
But at first, they had to stay inside, as others in the convoy returned a small amount of enemy fire. Then Beat and the others were helped out of the wreckage one by one. Beat couldn’t walk so two soldiers carried him to cover.
“It was really just all reaction,” Beat said. “I don’t remember feeling really that scared; we just wanted to make sure we took care of the situation.”
The injured soldiers were treated at their base and several other military hospitals in Afghanistan before being transported to Germany and then the U.S.
Beat, who works as an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Toledo, said the plan for now is to enjoy the holidays and continue to rehabilitate his foot while awaiting his next orders.
“It’s good to get home,” said Beat. “The doctors said the healing is doing very well, so I’m encouraged by that. I have to learn to put weight on it and learn to walk and run again.”
The 11-year Army veteran said he is honored to be included among those who have received Purple Hearts.
“But do I think I deserve it? Absolutely not,” Beat said. “There should be degrees of it because I would certainly be on a lower level than some who received it.”
Beat said he feels the military mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is vital to democracy and U.S. national security and is proud to be serving.
“I don’t want to give the enemy any credit (for the IED),” Beat said. “We all returned to duty. We will all come back and be as good or better than we were.”