Imagine being a refugee before you're even born. Imagine having parents so determined to provide a good life that they would risk everything in an escape from Hungary with just $50 schillings to their name.
Lowcountry resident Bob Beres, better known as Trooper Bob, was that unborn baby in his mother's womb. She was six months pregnant. His brave parents escaped in 1970 after meeting a stranger who promised assistance if they ever decided to leave.
The plan was to join a tour group to Austria. The group was checked at the border and allowed no more than two days worth of clothes and a certain amount of money. The couple, Andras and Margit had just $500 schillings.
In the middle of the night, they sneaked off from the group. They hopped in a taxi toward the address provided to them by the stranger just months prior. That cab ride cost $450 schilling.
The man wasn't home and the couple waited in the pouring rain for hours. He only allowed them to stay for two weeks. With a baby on the way and no money, the stranger said he had no choice and dropped them off at a refugee camp in Baden, Austria.
Beres was born and raised in the camp. His dad Andrew went to work with a farmer and cleaned out chicken cages to save money to go to the United States. He had 75 percent of the money saved for that one-way trip when then farmer offered him the rest of the money with a promise of being paid back. Andras gave that farmer his word. And at the age of two years old Bob was on his way to the United States with his parents and only $500.
"As a kid my mom put $20 in an envelope once a month to pay back the farmer. It's not like he would have ever found us but my parents gave him their word. There were no treats, no extras and no McDonalds until he was paid in full," Beres said.
His godfather was already in the United States and the family stayed with him for a little bit. Shortly after, they moved to a Hungarian Church that had a three-room house behind it. The family lived there in exchange for being the groundskeepers and property caretakers.
At that time in Fairfield, Conn. there was a large population of Hungarian immigrants and most worked as laborers for construction companies. The early 1900s brought them there and they established butcher shops, Hungarian bakeries, their own churches and festivals.
Beres' mother worked for an industrial plant earning $2 an hour making filament for the inside of light bulbs.
She walked 1.25 miles one way everyday to work that assembly line.
By then, Beres and his siblings were in school learning English. They were required to speak Hungarian at home but encouraged to teach their parents the English they were learning at school.
Times were tough. They shopped at Once is Not Enough consignment store. They collected aluminum cans to recycle for 5 cents.
"We had an old Ford Maveric stuffed with a garbage bag. Mom would pull over and we'd jump out grab cans off the street. I hated it. But it happened," he said.
Beres stayed in Connecticut until he graduated from high school. His sister went off to college and he went to work for a small construction company as a carpenter. But one day the contractor took of with Beres' tools and was never seen again. "He owed me three weeks of pay. I thought 'What am I going to do?' I am 18 years old with no tools.' And I looked across street and there was the Naval Recruiting Center."
In that moment he knew that his parents suffered and sacrificed to bring him to the United States for a better life. And the United States gave him a chance to prove himself and make something of himself.
"I felt like I should join the military to give back to this country what this country had given me."
He signed up for four years. His parents didn't learn of his decision until the paperwork was signed. Bob learned years later that his dad teared up that morning. But they were tears of a proud father who knew his son didn't want to be that guy working at the gas station the rest of his life.
The Navy gave him a boot camp wish list and he picked New Jersey, Florida and South Carolina last. They gave him Charleston. He arrived just after Hurricane Hugo hit. Everywhere were blue tarps and trees cracked in half. Shortly after arriving, he was called out to sea headed to the Persian Gulf.
He served in Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, an extended eight months on an ammunition and fuel ship. It carried a couple hundred thousand gallons for aircrafts and ships and military ammunition.
"There were times I'd be laying in my bed wondering about the chemical and biological warfare that Saddam Heusien had. We didn't know what he had but we underwent chemical, biological and radiological training," he said.
"We'd be sitting there with a gas mask on during frequent drills on an ammunition and fuel ship, watching out for mines in the Gulf. And I'd think back to my buddies who went off to college. They're over there on the other side of the world and I am over here not knowing - minute by minute - if we were going to get blown up."
His service took him around the world from Italy, to Spain, Norway, Nova Scotia, Cuba and up and down the East Coast to the United Arab Emerits and the Suez Canal.
"After my four years I knew I wanted to help people, I just didn't know how I was going to do it. I left the Navy with no job. I walked down the pier with my sea bag and God said to me in that moment 'you to be a policeman,'" Beres said.
He blanketed the Lowcountry — even in the Northwoods Mall security office applying to be a police officer. Everyone said no.
The only agency that hired him was the Medical University of South Carolina. He worked there for four months on campus as a state security officer mostly sitting in a guard shack watching the helicopter to make sure no one touched it. He was set to earn $12,000 a year.
Beres got wind that the County was hiring. He could get on as a detention officer at the jail and within a year be transferred to the road as a deputy. He applied and as he left he noticed the State Trooper's office.
"I thought, 'I would love to be a trooper but why would they hire me. Everyone else turned me down. At the last second I went to the building and applied. Back then it was an eight month application process. I got hired at the jail and went back to my boss at MUSC and thanked him for hiring me," Beres said. "I gave him my two weeks and told him my goal was always to be a trooper and he looked at me said "Beres you will never make it. You don't have an education or background training'. I just said thank you sir and left."
"I imagined graduating every time I had a chance to look at that stage during our physical fitness training in the early morning hours," he said. He eventually graduated from the academy Aug. 14, 1994.
The jail crew he worked with took up a collection and presented him with a set of Cross pens. Twenty-four years later he still has those pens and shines them every morning.
"They took their hard earned money to get me something and I want to take care of it," he said.
He graduated on a Friday and the following Monday he went straight to MUSC and parked his Highway Patrol Car right out front. Beres went inside, knocked on the door and looked. His old boss folded his arms and said, 'Beres.'
"I said 'No it's Trooper Beres. I'm stationed in Dorchester if you ever need anything.'"
"I was just an average kid from Connecticut that initially was thrown on a ship sent to other side world. But what I've seen and learned in my life is that people are all different in ethnic and racial makeup no matter where you go. And we all have got to get along," Beres said. "We're all brothers and sisters. I just wish the world got along like my shipmates got along."
Trooper Bob, commander of the S.C. Highway Patrol’s community relations unit is also known as the Emoji trooper. Much of his success can be attributed to the fact that he actually loves what he does. "I love interacting with people spreading safety messages." He's on twitter every night at 9 p.m. asking his 16,000 followers, "'Do you know where your children are?'"
"Everyday is a different day. But every morning my routine is to wake up, say my blessings that God gave me another day to finish his work. I say blessings before I eat be because I am so very thankful to be living in a country with so many opportunities. I go to work everyday changing people's lives whether I want to know it or not. All people in public service are," he said.
His father taught him that the way you treat people in life will carry you farther than money and an education ever will.
"We should treat everyone with dignity and the respect they deserve," he said. "And be thankful for what you have and be humble and never forget where you come from."
Beres has been back to visit Hungary three times. The first time he went to see his grandmother he slept on a potato sack on the dirt floor next to her bed. She only had two rooms, no water or electricity and she was 80 years old. She never flipped a light switch in her life, he said.
There have been some improvements but even today is dad's town near the Russian border is behind by 50 years.
That could have been his life but thanks to the sacrifice of his parents Beres can proudly offer advice to the next generation. "Never give up. literally have a goal in life. There has to be a reason why you wake up every morning and take a breath. If you want something you have to work for it. Nothing in the world is free," he said. "What you make in this life is up to you."
"There are a lot of doors in the wall of life that will close before one opens but you have to be persistent. And don't be discouraged when something doesn't go your way. What if I gave up because I couldn't get that mall security job?"
Beres believes that law enforcement is a calling. It is a sacrifice to voluntarily sign up to work shifts, holidays and special occasions. "It's much like wanting to join the military. I'm glad I did. I wish everyone did and served for at least two years before they did anything else," he said.
His dad died in 2005, but he's in constant contact with his mom Margit and sister Kristina who is also in law enforcement. Beres is also the proud father of Colt, 21, and Jaron, 9. He has one grandson, Noah. These are the things that mean the most to him, but they are right up there alongside his freedom and American citizenship - two things he continues to earn in his constant desire to give back.