Sunday, September 02, 2007

James S. Collins Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered during combat operations'

A yellow ribbon is tied to a tree outside the brick house in Summit Township where Army Sgt. James S. Collins lived before serving in Iraq.

Tuesday, the ribbon became a memorial.

Collins, 35, who worked in Jackson as a mechanic for the Army, was killed in combat while serving with the 303rd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Jackson. He died in Kirkuk, Iraq.

A second soldier from the 303rd Military Police was severely injured in the same incident, said Joshua VanBuskirk, unit administrator for the company.

Collins is survived by his wife, Amy; a son, Dawson; his parents and a sister. A funeral is planned in Royal Oak.

Originally from Rochester Hills, Collins began working full-time at the Jackson Army Reserve Center as a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic in December 2005.

Nine months later, he was one of 170 members of the 303rd Military Police Company called up for deployment to Iraq.

Duties of the unit involve combat support. They provide convoy security and train Iraqi police.

Before Collins, no soldier from the company had been killed in action, but the number of wounded is "in the high teens," VanBuskirk said.

Through a family-support liaison for the company, Collins' wife issued a short statement.

"We are very proud of him and we love him," Amy Collins said. "We support the men and women who are serving their country."

Collins' neighbor, Mark Curtiss, said Collins and his wife moved in about six months before he was sent overseas.

"He was just a great guy," Curtiss said. "I could tell he was proud of what he was doing."

The Army released a statement from Collins' parents: "We are very proud of our son, Jim, as are his wife, his son, and his sister. To us Jim will always be a hero. He did his duty as he saw it and was proud of his service to his country."

The family requested that media not contact them at this time, an Army spokesman said.

Few details are released about combat circumstances that led to Collins' death, but VanBuskirk confirmed a second soldier was wounded severely. That soldier, who has not been identified by name, is from Atlanta, VanBuskirk said.

On Sept. 13, the 303rd Military Police Company marched down Michigan Avenue in a light rain before leaving Jackson.

Soldiers in the 303rd include about 150 men and 20 women. More than half were assigned from other units in Minnesota and Ohio to bolster the ranks. Twenty percent volunteered to serve second or third deployments, according to an Army spokeswoman.

The company is expected to return to Jackson in November.

From the Jackson Citizen Patriot