LeRoy Collins Commentary 133

Commentary #133
30 January 2008

Flag at Half-Staff for Florida Soldier

Les, thank you for your timely note re SSG Robert J. Wilson U.S.Army, a native Floridian, who died this past weekend from wounds received in violent confrontation with the enemy, and honored in Kentucky as KIA in OEF/OIF. I share your interstate grief for this courageous soldier.

Your thoughtfulness begs the question whether we should do the same as Kentucky,...i.e. in Florida. There may be a partial answer in the fact that to date, with SSG Wilson's death, our state's loss from OEF/OIF has just passed 200 KIA, ....so it is on our minds and in our hearts DAILY.

Earlier this month I represented our Governor in a ceremony at the USAF Armaments Museum near Eglin AFB to honor all our state's KIA (198 at the time) with a permanent commemorative photo etched on tile and mounted on a mural approximately 8 X 30 feet,....and expandable in the future. Part of the memorable ceremony included an elderly couple adding their grandson's phototile to the mural.

After the unveiling of the mural and conclusion of the ceremony, I looked at each photo (which included 6 young women). All faces, in dress uniform, represented the diverse colors, creeds, and religions which are America. But the common expression of them all.....portrayed stoic determination, commitment, and pride in defending America.

The mural was the idea of the Military Order of Purple Heart, which said to me...... NEVER FORGET. Thanks for your patriotic reminder we will now see SSG Wilson,...... and are likely to see even more photo tiles, on the mural I look forward to being with you next month in WASHDC.

Very respectfully......

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr. RADM USNR (Ret)
Executive Director
Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs


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