Bills seek death benefits for ROTC graduates to honor Army Lt. Richard Collins III

U.S. Army Lt. Richard Collins III was murdered. (File, U.S. Army via AP)

Richard Collins III was fatally stabbed on the campus of University of Maryland in May 2017, two days after being commissioned as a U.S. Army officer, but was not buried with military honors.

Now, Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, who are Maryland Democrats, have introduced legislation that would honor Collins, and afford death benefits, life insurance and other benefits to ROTC graduates who die before checking-in to a first command. Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., has introduced companion legislation in the House.

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 around 3 a.m. on May 20, 2017.

Sean Urbanski will go on trial for first-degree murder and a state hate crime charge, in December.

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.

However, since he had not assumed his first command, the family’s request was denied.

Under The Second Lieutenant Richard W. Collins III Memorial Act, “a graduate of a reserve officers’ training corps who dies before receiving a first duty assignment shall be treated as a member of the Armed Forces who dies while on active duty.”

The bill — which would be retroactive to include Collins, and other ROTC graduates — would provide death gratuity benefits, as well as life insurance, and allow for families to have assistance from a Casualty Assistance Officer.

“Through his rigorous ROTC training, Lt. Collins had established himself as a dedicated soldier ready to serve his country,” said Cardin. “The horrendous circumstances of his death were compounded for his family by a system hamstrung in its attempts to support one of its newest officers.”

In a new release, Van Hollen called Collins’ death a heartbreaking tragedy.

“No military family grieving a loved one should have to deal with the added burden of bureaucratic red tape,” Van Hollen said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up