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Veteran Spotlight: Stephen Collins, Jr.

Not unlike many of you, I sit in a cubicle facing a computer monitor for several hours each work day. But I’m not here to share my many thoughts on poor ergonomics or eye strain. (I could type pages on the subject, but that would probably make my wrists and eyes hurt.) Part of my job is to comb through the Veterans History Project (VHP) collections for stories to share with our constituents, be they members of Congress, researchers, volunteers or veterans. Sometimes I am searching for collections that meet a specific criterion, such as World War II Army veterans who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, or Navy chaplains. Other times my quest is more general, and I might search for all women veterans, or all veterans who self-identify as Black or African American.

Stephen Collins, Jr. in uniform, armed in front of a jeep. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

Stephen Collins, Jr. in uniform, armed in front of a jeep. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

I was recently on one such mission seeking African American veterans to highlight during Black History Month. The collection of Stephen Collins, Jr., a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, immediately caught my attention. This was not the first time I had come across Collins’ collection; a few photos and a brief description of his story are on display in VHP’s Information Center.

Stephen Collins, Jr. as an infantryman, in a tent, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

Stephen Collins, Jr. as an infantryman, in a tent, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

I already knew he had been a medical school student and reservist at the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. What I had not realized until taking a closer look was how that singular event gave him a deep sense of obligation to serve his country, his branch of service and the others in his unit, when he was called to active duty two years later. That obligation was what kept him going. He said it best:

I did my job. I did the best that I could do, and I made it back.

We thank Staff Sergeant Collins for his valor and service to our country. Watch his full VHP interview and view photos from his collection here.

Afterward, stand up, and take a stretch break.

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