Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin have introduced a bill to extend death benefits to ROTC members who die before they're able to serve their first active duty assignment for the military.
The bill is in recognition of Lt. Richard W. Collins III, who was killed before he could serve his first assignment for the U.S. Army.
In a news release, the senators wrote that the Second Lieutenant Richard W. Collins III Memorial Act would modify death gratuity benefits to include ROTC graduates, give families of dead ROTC graduates access to assistance from a casual assistance officer and provide life insurance to ROTC graduates.
Collins, a Bowie State University student, was stabbed to death in 2017 while visiting the University of Maryland, College Park.
Prosecutors have charged Sean Urbanski, 24, of Severna Park, with first-degree murder and committing a hate crime resulting in death. Police say Urbanski, who’s white, was connected to a Facebook page called Alt-Reich: Nation and told Collins, an African American, “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you” before stabbing him.
“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,” Sen. Cardin said. “Our hope is that this legislation can bring solace to the Collins family and future families who are forced to cope with the untimely loss of a loved one who had made a commitment to serve our nation.”
Said Van Hollen: “Lt. Richard Collins’ death was a heartbreaking tragedy. No military family grieving a loved one should have to deal with the added burden of bureaucratic red tape."
Collins’ parents have also been pushing for their son to be honored by the Army. They say the military branch hasn’t officially recognized him as a 2nd lieutenant.
Read the full text of the senators’ bill here.
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