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Sergeant Collins was a 1990 graduate of Southfield-Lathrup High School where he played four years of football and track. He joined the United States Marines and served for four years before going on to attend Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City and Lake Superior State University, where he received a degree in criminal justice. In December 2005, not content with the pace and the way things were being run in civilian life, he joined the 303rd Military Police Company, U.S. Army Reserves in Jackson, Michigan, and served as a mechanic on light wheeled vehicles. Collins and his wife, the former Amy Kline, were married November 23, 2005, in his parent’s home in Rochester Hills when appeared that he was about to be deployed. Sergeant James Collins, because of his previous military experience, can-do attitude and level headedness, was quickly promoted to sergeant. Sergeant Collins and his wife Amy were living in Jackson, Michigan when he and 170 members of his company were deployed to Iraq in September 2006 and charged with conducting convoy security operations and training of Iraqi police. Sergeant Collins was in Iraq with the 303rd when he was killed on August 28th in Kirkuk. According to the Army, Sergeant Collins (age 35) was killed when his forward operating base came under fire. On that date, a small rocket was lobbed onto the base where the 303rd was stationed as a part of the 977th Military Police Company. Pfc. Donald Axtell, III, who had just opened a door when the rocket hit 10 feet behind him, was blown against the door and both of his legs were shattered. Two other soldiers were injured in the blast and Sergeant Collins was the only one killed. Before Sergeant Collins, no other soldier from the company had been killed in action, but the number of wounded “was in the teens”. Sergeant Collins’ commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Apodaca, wrote to his parents about the memorial service held for James, “the ceremony was packed with an outstanding of support and emotion from every unit, leader and soldier in remembrance of James. I will never forget the tributes paid him by his comrades and friends.”
I didn’t know Sergeant Collins or anyone in his family. However, recently I found myself sitting in traffic behind a vehicle with a Gold Star graphic and his name and date and location of his loss. I took the opportunity to say a prayer and to reflect on what I imagined his life meant to the person displaying the graphics. I spent time in Iraq and I always prepared for the fact that my pre-deployment photo, name, or some other reflection could become all that we me. I wish nothing but peace to his family and for us to never to forget him. My deepest sympathies to his family, friends and loved ones.