In a family where military service runs three generations deep, bearing a uniform with our nation’s flag came with ease for 1st Lt. Richard Collins III. There was never a question of what he was prepared to accomplish or defend while pursuing a career in the United States Army. What this Army lieutenant never accounted for was the hate he confronted while standing in his homeland (”Man convicted of first-degree murder in killing of Black Bowie State student near University of Maryland,” Dec. 18, 2019).
Veterans Day comes before us once again as we salute those past and present who have carried the flag of America upon them and made a commitment to fight and protect our freedoms — to defend our nation against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Lieutenant Collins was well on his way to making his mark on the world in front of him until a domestic enemy filled with hate took this young man’s life just hours after he received his commissioning oath in the Army.
Today, while we rightfully salute a multitude of brave men and women, the Collins family is fighting not only for the justice of their son, but to combat the hate that so violently took him from earth. This hate continues to reverberate within our borders. It grows in our political rhetoric, reaching the home of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; it flows freely in our digital conversation platforms and in university halls, most recently at the the University of Kentucky, where a white student was arrested after screaming racial slurs at a Black employee, this in a place where students seek the fundamental premise of higher education.
What are we to do when it comes to hate speech and the violence it portends? There is no room for it in our daily discourse if we are to call ourselves a truly functional and thriving society of human beings. The stakes are simply too high and we stand to lose what we cherish most — our children and their dreams.
We are a family of service members here, dedicated to making our time on earth worthwhile and fulfilling to those we call family, friend, neighbor and fellow American. Our son had dreams and vision. He died an officer standing his ground against a hateful, domestic enemy, as he would not be moved. Exactly the courage we expect from our military.
Happy Veterans Day.
— Dawn and Rick Collins, Owings
The writers are the parents of 1st Lt. Richard Collins III.
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