U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland 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 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III, who was killed before he could serve his first assignment for the Army. Collins, who was about to graduate from Bowie State University in 2017, was stabbed while visiting the University of Maryland, College Park.
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 help from a casualty assistance officer and provide life insurance to ROTC graduates.
Prosecutors have charged Sean Urbanski, 24, of Severna Park, with first-degree murder and committing a hate crime resulting in Collins’ 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,” 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.”
Van Hollen called Collins’ death “a heartbreaking tragedy."
"No military family grieving a loved one should have to deal with the added burden of bureaucratic red tape,” he said.
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.