MILWAUKEE (WITI) The Department of Defense has listed the death of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Jeremiah Collins, Jr. of Milwaukee as non-hostile on the Operation Enduring Freedom casualties website.
Collins died on Friday, October 4 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan as an intelligence specialist.
Collins was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Collins’s body has returned to the United States. Right now, his remains are in Dover, Delaware. They won’t be returned to Milwaukee until later this week or early next week.
The Collins family is finalizing arrangements but plans to have a family memorial, visitation and graveside service with full honors. Washington Lawmakers and the Obama administration rushed Wednesday to provide death benefits to families of a 19-year-old U.S. Marine from Milwaukee who died last week in Afghanistan and other fallen troops.
But the solution to what so far has to be the saddest and most embarrassing episode of a days-old government shutdown came from a private foundation.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Wednesday that the Pentagon’s deal with the Fisher House Foundation will provide a way to continue death benefits for military families. The agreement provides full benefits to family members of fallen service members, including a $100,000 death payment, until the shutdown ends and the government is allowed to reimburse the foundation.
Hagel said the Department of Defense was approached by the foundation, which is best known for its network of homes built on the grounds of military installations across the nation and in Europe to provide housing to families while their loved one is receiving medical treatment for combat injuries, illness or disease.
According to its website, the foundation also operates its Hero Miles Program to use donated frequent flier miles to help family members fly to the bedside of stricken troops.
The death of Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah M. Collins Jr., or JJ, was one of those cited by Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and other lawmakers as they attempted to provide a solution to the decision by the Defense Department that the shutdown barred it from extending the automatic benefits to his family.
Collins died Friday at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province. His death remains under investigation.
His mother, Shannon Collins, told NBC’s “Today” that the government was hurting the wrong people.
“For the sacrifice our kids are making, at the age that they’re making them, I don’t understand how this can be a benefit that’s withheld. I won’t ever understand it,” she told the show. “How can we do that to these young men and these young women, who come back having lost their lives? I just really hope that the government really figures this out.”
A “death gratuity” of $100,000 for eligible surviving relatives typically is wired within 36 hours to help with living expenses, funeral costs and flights to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to see the return of their family members’ remains, according to “Today.”
Monique Collins, Jeremiah Collins’ sister and an intern at the Journal Sentinel, said the family had learned the Marines are paying for the funeral, which is one less worry. She wasn’t sure about the status of other payments.
Jeremiah Collins graduated from Hamilton High School in Milwaukee and joined the Marine Corps in June 2012. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was promoted in May 2013 to his current rank and served as an intelligence specialist.
“He really liked being a Marine. He didn’t want to be a Marine his whole life, but once he committed to it, it was all he wanted to do,” his sister said.
Since the shutdown, 17 troops have died, including six in Afghanistan, ABC News reported Wednesday.
In his announcement, Hagel joined others in apportioning blame.
“I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” he said, accusing Congress of abdicating its responsibilities to the troops.
Hagel said his agency had warned Congress that it would not have the legal authority to make the death benefits to troops’ survivors if a shutdown occurred.
He said military attorneys and budget officials pursued various tools to resolve the issue but could not, even under previously passed legislation, keep money flowing to defense programs.
The bill is now in the Democratic-led Senate’s hands, and it’s unclear whether it will advance, according to the Associated Press.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to Hagel early Wednesday asking him to exercise all legal options to take action and provide the benefits.
Sen. Ron Johnson blamed the Obama administration. Collins, Jeremiah M., Jr. LCpl “Patty” Found peace on October 4, 2013. Age 19. Loving son of Shannon Collins and brother to Monique and Paris. Son of Jeremiah Collins, Sr. and brother to Jamirus, Justyn, Julissia and Jakob. Cherished grandson of Sheri James. Dedicated best friend of Sammuel Sanchez. Also survived by his loving Ham House family and numerous other friends and relatives. Jeremiah Proudly served with his Marine Corps family as an Intelligence Specialist since June 25, 2012. The family would like to thank for the love, support and generosity of the USMC, Darcy Lessard-Rouse and the Delta Family, Marine Parents, Camp Courage, The Barking Lot and a host of many other people and organizations too numerous to name. Visitation at The Funeral Home Friday, October 18, From 4-7PM. Additional visitation Saturday, October 19, from 10AM until time of service at 11:30AM. Services will conclude with full Military Honors.
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