More than two years after newly-commissioned U.S. Army Lt. Richard Collins III was fatally stabbed on the campus of the University of Maryland, his family is trying to right what it believes is a second injustice — the military denied the request to bury him with military honors.
Collins, who was set to graduate Bowie State University, after three years of an ROTC scholarship, was stabbed while waiting for an Uber with two friends at a College Park bus stop on May 20, 2017 around 3 a.m. Sean Urbanski will go on trial for first-degree murder, and a state hate crime charge, on July 22.
Collins’ father, Richard Collins, Jr. said in the days after their son died, he and his wife contacted their son’s ROTC commander for assistance in procuring military honors at his funeral.
“We were denied. We were told he was not eligible for military honors because he had not yet checked-in to his first command,” said his father, on the Roland Martin Unfiltered digital show.
Mourners packed the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro for Collins’ funeral on May 26, 2017.
“After his homegoing service, in the next week or so, bills for ambulance services, medical services, anesthesiologists, all showed up in our mail, and were charged to us, that we have to pay,” the father said.
The younger Collins was commissioned two days before his murder.
Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Eartha Govan was not surprised by the military’s initial decision.
“Like any organization, the Army has regulations and policy that they must adhere to,” said Govan, who appeared on the same program, and is working with the Collins family to secure the military honors.
“Unfortunately, in this situation, Second Lieutenant Collins was not on active duty yet, but he was en route there.”
Govan said despite the policy, the family is seeking further consideration.
“The Collins family is asking for an exception to this policy,” Govan said. “And like many policies, there are always exceptions that can be made.” She was not aware of exact precedent, but believed an exception would be appropriate.
Collins said his family has been in touch with several elected representatives.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen told WTOP, in a statement: “Lt. Richard Collins’ death was a heartbreaking tragedy. His life deserves to be commemorated with military honors, and I will continue working with the family and the Army on this matter.”
A spokesman for Sen. Ben Cardin said the senior senator “is working alongside the Maryland Delegation to urge the Army to make an exception for Lt. Collins.”
“We want to have our son designated as being on active duty, and in addition, being eligible for all military honors, (and) even though he’s already been laid to rest, those honors can still be rendered,” said Collins. “And also, to receive the benefits accorded to any service member that’s killed on active duty.”
Govan said it may take some time to reach the family’s goal.
“With anything in the Army, there’s always a process, and procedure, and stumbling block,” said Govan. “In this case we have to get the information to the right decision-makers in the military, who can actually grant this exception of policy, on behalf of Second Lieutenant Collins.”
A family representative said Collins and his wife weren’t immediately available for an interview with WTOP.