Gary was the second of four boys.
Robert Lewis Collins, Jamestown, KS - DOB: April 5, 1921
Betty Jean Neuway Collins, Jamestown, KS - DOB: August 8, 1923
Terry Lee Collins, Beloit, KS - DOB: May 25, 1947
Craig Eugene Collins, Topeka, KS - DOB: May 3, 1952
Mark Wayne Collins, Topeka, KS - DOB: October 12, 1955
Information current as of April 1, 2008
I have never, nor will I ever forget you. I love you!
Posted by: Gary's baby brother
Relationship: He is my brother
Sunday, June 26, 2011
The war in Vietnam has a very significant meaning to us, Bob and Betty Collins. Our son, Gary Dean, was a casualty there on September 28, 1968, on the Cua Viet River.
Gary was born on August 17, 1948, at St. Joseph Hospital in Concordia, Kansas. Following graduation from Jamestown High School, Gary enlisted in the Navy on what was called a minority cruise. The definition of this cruise was that you entered the Navy the day before your eighteenth birthday and were discharged the day before your twenty-first birthday. Actually, he had to leave on August 8, 1966, and was killed just after his twentieth birthday.
He left by bus from Salina, Kansas to go to Kansas City, Missouri to be sworn into theNavy. From there he went to San Diego Navy Base for boot camp. Following boot camp and the initial leave at home, he was assigned to the destroyer the USS Hopewell. They sailed to the Gulf of Tonkin where they served as support to the military action there.
We were fortunate to meet his ship when he came into San Diego at Christmas 1967. He spent time with us and relatives in the Los Angeles, California area.
In June 1968, he was taken off the Hopewell and sent to a three-week survival training school. This training was to teach them to survive if taken prisoners of war. During this time they were familiarized with the Vietnamese language, money exchange, and characteristics of the people. They were taken out on the desert and had to find their way back to Freedom Village. Food was anything one could find in the desert. Occasionally "rice water" was brought out to keep them from starving. Gary told of being across the road from Freedom Village when a truck nearly backed over him. I asked why he didn't try to get out of the way when he saw it backing. His reply was that he would rather be killed than to go through what he had just been through.
They were also treated as actual prisoners of war by various methods. During interrogations they were slapped, harshly, on the face for failing to give more than their name and serial number.
They were placed in individual plywood boxes in a cramped sitting position. The boxes only had a small hole for ventilation. In another situation, six men were placed in a similar box. I don't remember how long they were required to be in the boxes; although I know it was dehumanizing.
This training was stopped shortly after Gary went through it because it was deemed too harsh and cruel. There had been too many complaints in regard to the treatment.
Gary came home on leave following this training and returned to California for his departure to Vietnam. He spent a few days with my uncle and aunt at Whittier, California. They took him to Norton Air Force Base Debarkation Center for the air trip to Vietnam.
He served on a LCM (landing craft) for a short time then was assigned to a Mike Y1, a pusher boat, on September 1, 1968. The boat pushed jet fuel barges up to the Qua Viet River from Cue Vie to Dong Ho. The trip was about nine miles one way and was made on the average twice a day. On September 28, 1968, they were at the mouth of the Cua Viet River when the fire and explosion in which he died occurred. According to reports, contaminated fuel had been pumped into the river. Some welding being done on a ship caused sparks to set the fire and explosion. Three sailors were killed, two were missing, and three were hospitalized.
Our memorial for Gary was held on October 12, 1968, at the Jamestown High School with military committal at the Jamestown Cemetery.
Aboard an LCM-6 (Mike-6) pushing supplies between Cua Viet and Dong Ha. Contaminated fuel being unloaded at sea, when wind changed and blew jet fuel into mouth of Cua Viet river where a welder ignighted it killing 4 including Gary.