The family of Army 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins III, who was slain by an alleged white supremacist in 2017, is seeking a proper burial at the Arlington National Cemetery for their son.
In recent years, the Collins family has been denied requests to have the 23-year-old buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, however, they are now seeking help from the country’s first Black Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin.
Collins’ father, Rick Collins, who served in the Navy, told theGrio, “We plan to meet with the Secretary of Defense soon and would like to see our request approved for an exception to current policy concerning our son. These are extraordinary circumstances, so, therefore, we think it does deserve an exemption.”
In a statement obtained by theGrio, Kerry L. Meeker, director of public affairs at the Arlington National Cemetery wrote that the Collins’ family request has been denied because burial space at the cemetery “is extremely limited and members with no active-duty military service other than training do not qualify.”
“Arlington National Cemetery offers its heartfelt condolences to the Collins family. Their request for an exception to the burial policy at Arlington National Cemetery underwent a thorough review,” she wrote.
“While 2nd Lt. Collins’ death was tragic and his commitment to serve in the Army extremely admirable, the Secretary of the Army made the decision to deny the request. Exceptions to policy are rarely approved,” she added.
In 2017, Collins was at a bus stop on the University of Maryland College Park campus celebrating with friends after being commissioned into the Army. At some point during the night, then 22-year-old Sean Urbanski approached him and his friends and demanded Collins “step left.” When Collins refused to do so, Urbanski fatally stabbed him.
Collins was just days away from graduating from Bowie State University when the deadly encounter occurred, as theGrio previously reported.
Urbanski was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Rick told theGrio that Collins had orders to be stationed in the demilitarized zone of South Korea and he warned him of the dangers he could face while overseas.
“Never did we imagine that he would be in danger standing on the campus of University of Maryland at College Park,” he said.
He added, “It’s just unfortunate that while our son was out celebrating his accomplishment of just being commissioned into the United States Army as a second lieutenant with friends that some domestic terrorist felt empowered enough to walk up to him and stab him to death.”
Collins’ mother Dawn Collins told theGrio that the Arlington National Cemetery is enforcing a “bad policy.”
“We don’t agree with the policy. We believe wholeheartedly that once our son took that oath and pledged his allegiance to this country, he was a military officer and the policy that they have, in our opinion, is a bad policy,” she said.
She added, “We believe that our son was duty bound to serve this country. So, what we’re saying is the United States military, your duty bound to serve him as well.”
Rick and Dawn told theGrio that if the Pentagon denies their request, they plan to call on the White House for assistance.
“I believe wholeheartedly that President [Joe] Biden would have a different take on this. President Biden had a son in the military, so he knows the sacrifices associated with that,” said Dawn. “I would petition to President Biden and Dr. [Jill] Biden — she’s an educator. She speaks to military families all the time, and we should not be treated less then. We are patriots.”
Dawn told theGrio that she and Rick will “continue this fight because it helps keep my son’s memory alive and letting the world know he mattered and he was loved.”
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