April 9, 2011, Ed Collins finished his last battle here on earth and passed on to be with our God.
Ed Collins was one of my heroes in this life. Ed was the man I told about loading on a chopper the morning after the battle on FSB Illingworth. Ed had been placed in a group that was to be loaded on one of the last choppers because no one thought anyone in that group could even live to get to the rear for treatment. I did not know Ed at that time. He was just a badly wounded man who needed help. When we approached the chopper with the stretcher carrying Ed, the door gunner waved us back and said they couldn’t take any more. We move back and put Ed down on the ground. I looked up and saw the door gunner waving for me to come up to the door. I went up and he said the pilot wanted to talk to me. I went up to the pilot and he told me to put rest of the wounded men on the chopper. I asked how he could carry all of them. He said it would be a while before another chopper got back to the site. He said to load them and then for everyone to pick up on his skids and run with the chopper as far as we could. We propped Ed up in the door gunner’s seat. Then after loading all the remaining wounded, we lifted on the skids and ran with the chopper until we could run no more. The chopper gained speed only feet from the ground and then lifted up at the tree line and made it out. For many years I wondered what happened to that man. I always thought that he probably died before he got to the med station.
After I wrote about this in my article on FSB Illingworth, Ed contacted me and told me that he was the man that I wrote about. He and two of his daughters traveled to Ft. Sill, OK in 2010 for the memorial service for the soldiers who gave their lives on April 1, 1970, at FSB Illingworth and FSB Jay. When I saw Ed coming across the parking lot, I decided it had to be him. He walked straight up to me and said, “I believe you are Randall”. We hugged and cried and neither of us could believe that we had come together after our unfortunate, chance meeting 40 years before. Ed came to our E/2/8 reunion in Warm Spring, GA during October, 2010. He planned to attend our reunion in October of this year, but now we will have to wait a few years to see each other again.
Ed Collins was my hero because, though he had much wrong with his body, he never complained, but rather, he chose to be positive about the life he had. During the battle on Illingworth, all the muscle was blown off the top of Ed’s arms and shoulders. The doctors redirected muscles to fix Ed where he could move his arms. Before our meeting in OK Ed was diagnosed with cancer and based on the time line given to him by his doctor, he should have already been dead. But Ed felt that God allowed him to live long enough to make it to the memorial service. Thankfully, God gave Ed a year beyond the memorial service to spend time with family and friends.
Ed Collins was laid to rest with full military honors in Anderson, SC at M.J.”DOLLY’ COOPER VETERANS CEMETERY. My wife and I attended the funeral and were touched by the service.
Posted by Randall at 4/29/2011 8:24 AM
Categories: E, 1st Cavalry Airmobile, 2nd Battalion, Firebase Illingworth, 2/8, Vietnam, Echo Company, Mortar Platoon, Mortar, 1970, 1st Cavalry Division, US Army