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Veteran Spotlight: Stephen Collins, Jr.

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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.

Color photo of man in camouflage holding a gun in front of a hummer in the desert.
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.

Color of photo man in camouflage uniform and glasses sitting in a tent.
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.

Comments (4)

  1. Hello Ms. Taylor,

    A potential employer ran a background check on me on the internet and found this article. I did not know anything about the article prior to him forwarding it to me.

    Semper fidelis,


    • Thank you for your service to our nation, for sharing your story with VHP and for writing. We highlight several veterans’ stories from our collections each week in various places, including here on “Folklife Today,” our Facebook page, @vetshistoryproject and through our RSS feed. Please subscribe or check our sites frequently for new and interesting topics as well as invitations to upcoming events. Thanks again.

  2. Mr. Collins, The National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus Ohio would like to obtain permission to use 6 of your images. Would you please get in touch with me regarding permission to use your images in a fixed exhibit?
    Thank you,

    Jane Martin
    photo research, NVMM

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment, Ms. Martin, and we’re glad to hear of your interest in using Mr. Collins’ images in an NVMM exhibit. I’ll be in touch directly about the use and permissions process. All best and thanks again, Megan Harris

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