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Army Staff Sgt. Gary L. Collins

Died November 8, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

32, of Hardin, Texas; assigned to 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kan.; killed Nov. 8 while riding in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that hit an improvised explosive device in Fallujah, Iraq.

Soldier from Texas killed in Iraq

Associated Press

A soldier from Texas was killed in Iraq, Department of Defense officials said Monday.

Staff Sgt. Gary L. Collins, 32, of Hardin was killed Nov. 8 while riding in a Bradley fighting vehicle that hit an improvised explosive device, DOD officials said.

Collins was a member of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kan.

“He believed in what the military stands for and I guess in a way he felt like he was protecting the world,” his father, Don Collins of Sam Rayburn, said in a story in the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise.

He said his son was a professional soldier and had been in the infantry since getting out of boot camp.

“The thing I always saw with him — he was very much a man of honor and a good young man,” Don Collins said. “I figured his odds of surviving were way better than the average person that hadn’t had the training he had.”

“He was just a very dedicated young man that felt like the cause he was fighting was a just cause,” Don Collins said. “His spirit will live with me — even though it’s a big hole in my heart — with me forever. He was just a hell of a man.”

Gary Collins graduated from Magnolia High School. Survivors include his wife, Kassie, and two daughters, 8-year-old Taylor and 6-year-old Landry.

A memorial service was scheduled for Nov. 11 at Fort Riley. Collins will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, his father said.

A woman who answered the phone at the Collins home referred questions to the family’s casualty affairs officer, Capt. Anthony Beville.

Beville said Collins had been in the Army 12 years and in Iraq since September.

He was commander of the vehicle in which he was riding, Beville said. He said the device that hit the vehicle was like a homemade bomb.

“There are a multitude of varieties that the Iraqis are putting together and thinking of new ways to make them all the time. It’s one of the most prominent causes of most of the deaths.”

Collins’ gunner also was killed in the accident and another soldier was wounded, he said.

Collins was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class, Beville said. He was an Army Ranger and had received seven Army Achievement medals, three Army Commendation medals and had a prestigious expert infantry badge, Beville said.

Hardin is a town of about 600 people some 55 miles northeast of Houston.

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