Roadside bomb kills Upper Marlboro soldier, 52, in Iraq

A 52-year-old soldier from Upper Marlboro has been killed in Iraq, the Department of Defense announced yesterday, making him the war's oldest military fatality from Maryland.

Staff Sgt. Robin L. Towns Sr. died Wednesday, a week and a half after arriving in Iraq, of injuries he sustained when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee in Bayji during combat operations, the Department of Defense said.

Sergeant Towns, a member of the District of Columbia National Guard and a correctional officer for the Prince George's County Department of Corrections, was the 11th service member 50 or older to die in hostile action, according to iCasualties.org, an independent group that maintains a database of Iraq casualties.

Sergeant Towns, who had 20 years of Army service, was assigned to the 275th Military Police Company, 372nd Military Police Battalion, with which he had served since April 2006. A spokesman said he was the second member of the D.C. National Guard to die in Iraq.

Sergeant Towns was a squad leader when he was deployed in May. He spent months training in the D.C. area and Louisiana, the spokesman said.

At a news conference yesterday at Sergeant Towns' church in Capitol Heights, his sister-in-law, Joyce Wise, recalled the last conversation she had with him before he left for Iraq.

When he asked what she would like for him to bring back, she told him just to bring himself so that he could make some of the barbecue the family loved so much.

"He was a wonderful father, husband and a wonderful brother-in-law," said Ms. Wise, who, along with her sister, Catherine Grant, spoke for the family. "He loved the military. He loved serving his country. ... For him, serving in the service was part of who he was as a person."

The Rev. Anthony Maclin, pastor of The Sanctuary, where Sergeant Towns was an active member, said, "Robin was a committed, faithful man of God." He served with the church's military support ministry, Mr. Maclin said.

Sergeant Towns began his 20-year military career when he joined the Army after graduating from Manor High School in Portsmouth, Va., his birthplace, in 1973. He was a platoon sergeant until 1989, when he was honorably discharged.

Years later, he joined the National Guard. In 2003, he received a Certificate of Achievement for his unit's deployment for Hurricane Isabel. In 2005, he received the Maryland State Active Duty Medal for his deployment for Hurricane Katrina.

At family gatherings, Sergeant Towns' sisters-in-law said, he would don gear from his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles, while the rest of the family rooted for the Washington Redskins.

"We had a lot of fun together when we got together as a family," Ms. Wise said.

Sergeant Towns had been married for 10 years to Shelia Towns, sister of Ms. Wise and Ms. Grant. He is also survived by six grown children and four grandchildren.


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