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Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy D. Collins, 36, Long Beach; Dies After a Mortar Attack

June 12, 2005|Nicholas Shields | Times Staff Writer

As a child, Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy D. Collins routinely lined his G.I. Joes on the floor like soldiers standing at attention.

Collins and his sister Greta Williams would lie on the floor and eye the toys with their fingers on the triggers of their water guns. "He used to say, 'When I say go, we're going to go to war,' " she said. "If I shoot down more of your men, I win."

Collins, 36, a father of two, died May 24 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., of injuries suffered in a mortar attack May 4 in Mosul, Iraq. He was assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Irwin, Calif.

"He called himself Jedi 1," said his brother Moses Collins Jr. "He knew everything you could know about 'Star Wars.' "

Collins, the sixth of nine children, was born in Missouri and moved with his family to Long Beach when he was 7.

He attended Mark Twain Elementary School, Bancroft Junior High School and Millikan High School, where he was on the cross-country team. He also joined the Army Junior ROTC program at Millikan, then went into the Army Reserve after graduating in 1987.

He planned to make the military his career, Williams said.

"Anything with combat or war, he loved," she said. "He was a nice, kind, go-lucky type of person. He liked living on the edge. Not in a dangerous way, but when it came to the military, he was willing to go regardless of the danger."

Moses Collins said he saw his brother a day before he died in the hospital. "He never met somebody he didn't like," he said. "He just had a personality and character about him. He was a very humorous and funny person. He always had to be the class clown. Wherever he went, he had to be heard."

Randy Collins' ex-wife, Latonya Singleton, described him as an honest person who could light up a room with his personality and smile. She said the two talked two days before the mortar attack.

"He called me at work. He asked me how I was doing," Singleton said. "He said, 'No matter what you do in life, always be happy.' "

She said the conversation lasted about four minutes.

"I don't know where it came from," she said. "It was about God and being happy about life. I'm glad he was at peace. I feel he was at peace with himself."

Their daughter, 11-year-old Jazmine Collins, described her father as a friend and a hero. She said he helped her overcome her fear of heights by taking her to a theme park. "I saw this big roller coaster and I was like, 'Wow, I'm not getting on that.' " But she said that, with her father's help, she did ride the rollercoaster.

"When I got off, I felt happy because I faced a fear that I thought I couldn't do," she said.

Jazmine said that she and her family miss her father.

"He told us he was going to come back, and I believed him -- but things happen. It's not his fault that he's gone," Jazmine said. "I really wish he wasn't gone. But I know I'll see him again."

In addition to his daughter, brother Moses and sister Greta, Collins is survived by his wife, Roxanne, and their son, Kevin; his mother, Margarette Miller, and stepfather, George Miller; a brother, Louis Rainey Jr.; and two sisters, Teresia Collins Hodge and Emma McNeil. Three siblings predeceased him.

Services were June 4 at New Hope Baptist Church in Long Beach.

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