Friday, December 31, 2010

His Name is Sean

As reported in the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune, the parents of Sgt Sean Collins, a Yelm, Washington soldier killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, was very grateful for the outpouring of support from friends and strangers, but were stung by slights from two Democratic politicians.
“As a father of someone killed, it is overwhelming,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Collins (Ret.). His son, Sgt. Sean Collins, was buried Wednesday at the Tahoma National Cemetery. Among that outpouring of empathy, two politicians inadvertently stung the family.

One slight came in a letter of condolences the family received from the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. At first, the Collins family appreciated that Cantwell had taken the time to send a letter acknowledging their son’s sacrifice. But the letter misidentified the slain soldier in its last paragraph, which reads:

“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 was dated Dec. 20 and delivered to Sean Collins’ mother, Linda Collins of Yelm. The error conveyed to the family that Cantwell had sent a form letter. “They couldn’t even proofread it,” she said. “I’m sure if her 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. He has not yet called Cantwell’s office to ask for an apology.

Cantwell’s office is on short staffing for the holiday week and has not replied to an email to its press staff. The Collins family was in touch with Cantwell’s office in the capital Thursday, and was told Cantwell’s staffers were looking into the mistake.

The other slight came when Patrick Collins called the White House and asked to have President Obama call his ex-wife, Linda, to talk about their son. He was told that Obama did not regularly make phone calls to the families of fallen soldiers.

Later, Patrick Collins read a story about Obama’s phone call to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie. Obama reportedly praised Lurie for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance to play football after serving time in prison for running a dog fighting ring.

“That burns,” Patrick Collins said Thursday. “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,” Collins said.

After the newspaper’s blog posted this story, a commenter called “First_Lefty” left several comments, giving his condolences, then proceeded to defend Mr Obama, writing “who he calls and why is his business”. He then went on to blame President Bush for Sean’s death, and decried the perceived shameful treatment given to Cindy Sheehan. The following is the reply to First_Lefty from Lt Col Collins.
First_Lefty: Well, your name kind of says it all. I'd like to set the record straight, but first I'd like to thank you for your condolences. You should be thankful. A better man than you just died defending your right to express your opinion.

There was an error in the original article, I never called the White House - I have no desire to get a call from the President. I did make a request for the President to call my ex-wife. I believe it is something that should be done. If Gen Petraeus can take time to write a personal note, if my son's Company Commander can find time to make a phone call - all while fighting a war; if the Governor of Washington can find time to send personal condolences, then yes the President should be able to find time. Ultimately, it's not even a question of time. I would understand the President saying that it is not his policy, that the Office of the President cannot get involved in every soldier's death. But that's not what was said. The response we were given was that he is too busy to fit it into his schedule. That's what makes bogus calls to the President of the Eagles so galling (incidentally, yeah, Michael Vick has had a tremendous year ... playing nothing but a game).

As far as Senator Cantwell, sending a form letter is "okay", even nice. Having such a poor quality control, especially on a letter to a Mother who has lost her son at Christmas is just pathetic.

Is this political (?), maybe in your eyes. However we actually waited because we knew someone like you would make this accusation. When we told the reporter, it was in response to a question. In fact, we purposely told him that we didn't want to make this about politics. It may come as a surprise to you, but calling the Senator's office while we were grieving the loss of our son wasn't high on our priority list. Taking care of our son's three siblings and arranging for a burial somehow rated higher in importance.

Finally, to answer your first suggestion, that we should focus our anger on those who sent him to war - that would be Mr. Obama. My son was a member of the 101st Airborne. They are in Kandahar Province as a part of the surge ordered by the President almost a year ago. Not only did I agree with that decision by the President, making it something I would never blame him for, I have no doubt that your political persuasion would have enabled you to put an equally feeble comment in response to that if I had mentioned it.

You sir are a sad excuse for a man. It almost makes me sad to think I spent 28 years, and my son sacrificed his life, defending your right to be as misguided as you are ... yet that is where we are today.

Thank you, Lt Col Collins. Our nation owes your son Sean a great debt of gratitude. God Bless your entire family.

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