Where Has He 'Bean' For 40 Years?
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Laura Berry
April 23, 2020
Like many young people, he was searching for a challenge, an
exploration. He had grown up in a very urban atmosphere and had seen
little of the world. He needed to find out what he was capable of.
Robert Bean enlisted in the military Memorial Day weekend in
1979 under the delayed entry program. He was 18 years old, 5'9" and
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bean sits beside his trumpet after his combined service of 40 years in the U.S. Marines and the Massachusetts Army National Guard
on March 26, 2016. (Courtesy photo
provided by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bean)
All of his friends knew he was joining some branch of the
military, and each of them advised him "just don't join the Marine
Corps." So, he joined the Marine Corps.
His first plane ride
was to boot camp at Parris Island on Sept 7, 1979.
Bean was a musician in the Marine Corps. After boot camp and
completion of the Naval School of Music he said he was lucky enough
to be stationed at the oldest post of the Corps, 8th and I Barracks
in Washington, DC. He became a bugler with "The Commandant's Own"
U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. They traveled across the nation
and world with The Silent Drill Team and Marine Corps Color Guard
representing the Marine Corps and Nation.
“For a kid who had
never seen much outside of Massachusetts up until then, this was an
eye opening experience,” said Bean. “We performed for Presidents,
celebrities, but, most importantly, patriotic Americans who, like
myself, may not have had opportunities to see ceremonial Marines in
Bean left the Marine Corps to attend Berklee College
of Music in Boston. While he was there he grew his hair long. One
day, there was an attack on the Marine Barracks in Lebanon. Well
over 200 Marines were killed, including his friend Richard Gordon.
They had been friends since the 1st grade. Richard's parents asked
the Marine Corps if he could play Taps at his funeral. While he was
in class, he received word -- before cell phones existed -- that the
Commandant had called his house. He was authorized to don his
uniform once more to perform Taps at the funeral in Somerville,
“I cut my hair and felt so honored to be able to do
this last farewell for Richard,” said Bean. “It was at that moment,
I realized how privileged I had been. So many had served this nation
in times of hostility to include my father and all my uncles. I had
the ability to honor them in some small way through music. I also
missed the comradery which is something you only get in the
He joined the 26th Yankee Division Band,
Massachusetts National Guard, at the Commonwealth Armory in Boston
in 1984. He later joined the 215th Army Band in Fall River.
Bean worked for UPS for many years but continued to serve in the
National Guard part time. In 2013, his unit’s Readiness NCO sent him
a job posting for a Casualty Notification / Casualty Assistance
Officer thinking it might be something that would interest him.
Looking back, Bean said he was flattered that the Readiness NCO
would think of him for the position since he did not actually need a
job. He was very comfortable in his position at UPS. The casualty
job is something that many Soldiers shy away from considering the
relationship with death. For Bean, this job related to compassion,
empathy, and an opportunity to help a family at the worst time of
“I am so incredibly grateful for Col. (Michael)
Allain's trust in me when he hired me,” said Bean. “How many people
in this world have this opportunity to go to work with the sole
purpose of helping and being kind. It has been the absolute best job
of my life.”
After being in the position for a few years, he
became certified to teach the Casualty Assistance Course. Because he
had done so many Notification and Assistance missions he had a lot
to share to those who have never done the mission.
subject I am very passionate about,” said Bean. “We must take care
of these families as if they were our own. Just as we would never
leave a Soldier on the battlefield, nor should we leave their
families in their darkest hour.”
In 2019, he helped a family
with the repatriation of an uncle who died at a Korean POW Camp in
1953. As he was helping the nephew, he learned that the Soldier who
had buried his uncle in the POW Camp in 1953 was still alive and
living locally. Bean found him and realized that this was an amazing
story that had to be told. This was going to be a homecoming for him
as well. He was able to introduce him to the family. He felt honored
to be able to assist as the 93 year old man was interviewed by Jeff
Glor on CBS News.
“As my own family has dwindled due to
death, I feel so incredibly grateful that my extended family has
grown due to the deep connections I have made as Casualty Assistance
Officer to so many wonderful families,” said Bean. “Each one of them
has a piece of my heart which were seared through tears and hugs.”
2019 was a great year for Bean. In March, he was presented an
award from the American Red Cross for being a Military Hero. In May,
he was presented an award by Massachusetts Fallen Heroes at their
He was also asked to contribute to a manual the
Department of Defense put together relating to "Postvention" after a
military suicide. They used a considerable amount of his suggestions
and he is quoted within the manual.
Bean spent over 40 years
combined in the military. There were many Saturday and Sunday
mornings when he really asked myself why he was dragging himself out
of bed to go to drill. He was not in great need of the money. When
he really thought about why he stayed in for so long, the answer
became crystal clear.
“I couldn't wait to spend time with
the men and women of the 215th Army Band because they were
guaranteed to make me laugh through the day,” said Bean. “There is
not a funnier group of people and they are all in the National Guard
for the right reasons. I have been so grateful to have served with
them and that is what I will miss most.”
1st Sgt. Jeffrey
Hyde, 215th Army Band, said that Bean made a positive impact on the
lives of countless Soldiers, families and civilians in his career.
“His leadership and mentorship established a strong presence
amongst the NCOs of the 215th Army Band,” said Hyde. “He has always
been the go-to mentor for the entire Unit and I am honored to have
served aside him.”
Bean felt it was pretty easy to stay in
the 215th. He explained that when Soldiers are happy where they are
then the retention remains strong.
If someone is considering
joining the Army Band, Bean said they should know they are going to
be among the elite and will need to practice individually daily,
prepare and be creative every day work hard. The job is not always
only two days a month and two weeks a year.
“You will regret
nothing,” said Bean. “The benefits you will receive will all be
worth it and that includes the friendships and collaborations you
Now, that he is retired from the
Massachusetts National Guard, he will be returning to UPS and will
eventually retire from there in an undetermined amount of time. He
plans to eventually go back to college using the GI Bill and to be
more active in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company where he
is the Bandmaster.
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