Although he's getting an award from the Department of Defense, Salina's Kim Robinson said he feels he's just doing what needs to be done while his employees in the Utah National Guard are deployed overseas.

"I look at their little kids and know that they're a year without their fathers — that's a touching thing, you know," Robinson said on the phone Monday after hearing about the award.

Robinson, president of the Salina-based Robinson Transport Inc., has covered the cost of insurance and benefits while seven Guardsmen with two different units were deployed in the past few years to Iraq and Afghanistan. He also kicked in $1,000 a month, part of the employees' salary, for their families while the men were deployed.

"That's a small token as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Touched by their employer, employees nominated Robinson, 53, for the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which he will receive during a ceremony in September at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington. The award has been in effect since 1996.

Robinson's family owned company, started in 1946, employs 130 people, some of whom drive 65 trucks that annually haul about 3.5 million tons of coal to several Utah locations from the SUFCO Mine 30 miles east of Salina. But his business is small compared to some of the previous award recipients, which include American Express, General Motors, Sears and The Home Depot.

"'They don't do as much as you do,'" a major in the military recently told him, Robinson said.

When his Guardsmen employees returned, their jobs were intact.

"They didn't lose anything when they came back," he said. "I feel that's something I had to do for my families."

The father of three said he considers himself "pretty patriotic."

This year's recipients include Chrysler Motors, City of Austin, Jersey City Fire Department, Oshkosh Corp., State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance and Union Pacific Corp.

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