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MILITARY DEATHS

Army Spc. Timothy D. Watkins, 24, Yucca Valley; Among 5 Killed in Explosion

November 06, 2005|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

On the day that Iraqis went to the polls to vote on a new constitution, Timothy D. Watkins was supporting an armor unit in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad. An improvised bomb exploded near his unit's Bradley fighting vehicle Oct. 15, and Watkins was killed with four of his fellow Army soldiers.

"It probably sounds like denial, but we really believe our son was doing exactly what the Lord wanted him to do," his father, Rob Watkins, said from the family home in Yucca Valley. "There has never been a cause of freedom and liberation that hasn't cost somebody everything. We believe although all the wrinkles have not been worked out in Iraq, it is still a great cause. Even on the day on which Timothy lost his life, people were actually to have a voice in voting at the polls without fear of retribution."

Timothy Watkins, 24, was born in Mission Viejo, the oldest of five children. Rob Watkins, a 46-year-old pastor, said he moved his wife, Terri, and the family among several churches in Orange County before putting down roots as head of Calvary Baptist Church in Yucca Valley in 1992.

The Christian faith always played a central role in Timothy Watkins' life, his father said. He sang in the church choir, starting as a tenor and ending as a bass. After high school, he spent a year at Pacific Baptist College in Pomona as a Bible major and sang at churches up and down the West Coast.

He also spent many summers at Ironwood Christian Camp in the Mojave Desert near Barstow, where he and others canoed, climbed rocks and swam. Eventually he became a counselor, organizing activities as well as ministering to the eight or so young men in his cabin.

"He was one who really seemed to have a direction in life, and he headed for it," said Ron Perry, 28, head of the college-age program at Ironwood. "For him, it was the Army."

Watkins liked the discipline and commitment of the armed forces, Perry recalled. "He really wanted to do something for his country," he said. "He was really moved by the Twin Towers attack and really, that was one of his driving forces: to help keep our country protected."

Watkins joined the Army in September 2003 and was a specialist assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Benning, Ga.

Watkins returned home for a two-week leave in August during his first tour in Iraq. He appeared to have matured, though he hadn't lost his easygoing character, his father said. "He was cautious to talk about the experience in Iraq," Rob Watkins said. "Not that he was trying to hide anything. It seemed like he was trying to guard our feelings because we were so worried."

But Rob Watkins said he never worried that God took his hand from his son's shoulder.

When Army officials told the family that Timothy had been killed, the family prayed and his father thought of the Bible verse from Paul's second letter to Timothy.

"I have fought a good fight," his father recited. "I have finished my course. I have kept my faith."

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