Lincolnton High School Assistant Principal Robbie Robbins received the second highest military service award during a special ceremony among students, colleagues, friends and family Friday on campus.
Robbins, a 30-year colonel in the United States Army Reserve, never imagined he would attain such a high rank during his seasoned career, let alone receive the honorable Legion of Merit Award.
“It’s the pinnacle of my career,” he said.
The award is handed out for meritorious service for military achievements.
The Army’s Physical Disability Agency presented Robbins with the medal as some of his most beloved war buddies and former military supervisors crowded around a small classroom, offering Robbins’ career highlights and words of praise before an audience of JRTOC students and county educators.
The school administrator received the award for his role working with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., as the senior advisor for the Army Reserves from 2009 to 2012.
During his time there, he said he ate lunch with both amputee and double amputee war veterans daily, always solemnly passing the Arlington National Cemetery on his way to work.
“To see those thousands and thousands of graves — it’s unbelievable,” Robbins said.
Prior to taking the D.C. position, the 55-year-old colonel served as the assistant principal at North Lincoln High School. In addition to pursuing patriotism and contributing to his country’s freedom, he said teaching and coaching have been his top passions.
He helped lead basic training early in his career for 18 and 19-year-old cadets before filling his days interacting with injured soldiers.
“I’ve done it all,” Robbins said. “I’ve prepared and trained soldiers to fight and have also seen the aftermath of war.”
Yet, perhaps his most thrilling career move took place in 2006 when he volunteered to relocate to Iraq for eight months to instruct men at the Iraqi National Police Academy.
For the duration of his Middle East assignment, he trained nearly 1,800 officers at a time, teaching them in just a matter of four weeks everything they needed to know about policing the streets and how to carry out the “rule of law” rather than the “rule of man,” the ceremony’s Presiding Officer, retired Major General James Mallory, said.
One of Robbins’ former military supervisors, Mallory once served as the commanding general of the 108th Training Command and deputy commanding general of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. He currently practices law in Statesville.
Robbins said his overseas job was anything but easy since students often trained in scorching 120-degree temperatures, and every word he spoke had to be translated.
While the accomplished colonel, who’s also received the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and numerous other good conduct and achievement ribbons and medals over the last three decades, could have chosen to have his most recent and last military award presented to him in Washington, he opted to celebrate the honor with those closest to him in the county where he works and lives.
“This is, indeed, a special day in which we get to recognize one of our own,” Lincolnton High School Principal Tom Worley said.
In recognition of Memorial Day weekend, individuals at the ceremony also took a special moment to reflect silently on the memory of fallen soldiers from wars past as well as consider the families left behind.
“The strength of our Army is our soldiers,” Mallory said, “and the strength of our soldiers is their family.”