Sgt. Sean Collins, a soldier killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, was finally laid to rest Wednesday. For weeks the family has graciously accepted an outpouring of condolences from friends and strangers alike. "As a father of someone killed, it is overwhelming," says Lt. Col. Patrick Collins (Ret.), Sgt. Collins' father.
But not all notes of sympathy have helped ease the Collins family's pain. In fact, as the News Tribune reports, empathetic messages sent from two politicians actually stung the family.
After hearing the news of their son's passing, the Collins say they received a letter of condolences from the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. At first the family appreciated the fact that Sen. Cantwell had taken time out of her busy schedule to acknowledge their son's sacrifice. But the letter inadvertently misidentified their dead son:
“Again, please accept my warmest condolences. May your memories of Bryn and the knowledge that he made a positive impact on the lives of so many serve as a source of comfort to you during this time of sorrow.”
The letter from Cantwell, dated Dec. 20 and delivered to Sean Collins' mother, conveyed to the family that Cantwell's staff had sent the family a form letter. “They couldn’t even proofread it,” Collins' mother said. “I’m sure if [Cantwell's] son had died, she would’ve at least wanted his name spelled correctly.”
“That’s just sloppy staff work, that’s an embarrassment,” Patrick Collins said.
In a separate instance, Patrick Collins called the White House to ask President Obama to call his ex-wife, Linda, to talk about their son. Instead, Collins said the White House told him that the president did not regularly make phone calls to the families of fallen soldiers. The slight came, Collins says, when he later learned that President Obama had phoned the Philadelphia Eagles with praise for owner Jeffery Lurie for giving Michael Vick a "second chance."
“That burns,” Collins said. “Any soldier that gets killed in action, you’d think the president would be calling someone in the family."
"There’s no politics in it. His predecessor did it,” he said.
Collins' son, Sean, died with five of his fellow soldiers on Dec. 12 in a suicide attack on their combat outpost in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. The 2004 Yelm High School grad had volunteered for his last tour with the 101st Airborne Division out of Ft. Campbell, Ky. It was his third combat deployment in five years.
Collins was laid to rest Thursday as hundreds of family members and friends gathered to pay their respects.
“My son was a hero,” Collins' father said. “He could have stayed at Campbell. He had dwell time. He was a team leader and he wanted to go with his team.”