Charles Collins - Private First Class
- Purple Heart
- Korean Service Medal
- UN Campaign Medal for Service (Somalia)
Charles Emery Collins was born September 25, 1930, three years after his parents, Violetta and Emery Collins were married in Fort Dodge, IA. The family lived for a while in Albion, and in 1941, moved to a farm northeast of Melbourne, just west of Marshalltown, Iowa. Charles grew up on that farm and was Violetta and Emery’s only surviving child. The family was active in the Christian Church in Melbourne.
Charles was always a kind and gentle person who took time for people, especially his cousin Linda. He watched her closely and knew that she enjoyed pets, especially his dog. He was the sort of boy who showed acts of kindness where ever he went. A high school classmate remembered him as a quiet person who was well-liked in school.
Charles developed his favorite hobby at a young age – and it grew out of one of the family’s enterprises on the farm. In a 1938 picture, he and his mother, Violetta are both shown wrapping their arms around the Belgium horses they raised. One of their horses was known to weigh over 2000 pounds!
Charles graduated from Melbourne High School in 1949 and that fall quarter, attended Iowa State taking courses in animal husbandry. He likely intended to continue farming and raising horses, and may have eventually taken over his parents’ farm.
In June 1950, Charles entered the US Army, taking basic training at Ft. Knox, KY, where he graduated from the 2nd Army’s Food Service School. The course included training in all phases of field and garrison cooking and mess management.
Charles was a member of F Company, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. Photos of him with his mom and dad were taken when he returned home on leave.
After his leave, he was sent to Ft. Lawton, WA and from there went to Korea, where he was assigned to front line duty in December 1951. For a period of time, he was re-assigned to guard Communist prisoners of war on Koji Island. He returned to the front lines in March 1952 and died on May 22, 1952. At the time of his death, he was serving as a cook on Heartbreak Ridge. He was 21 years old and held the rank of Private First Class.
Although the infamous Battle of Heartbreak Ridge was fought in September and October the previous year, sporadic battles initiated by the North Koreans and Chinese continued to be fought along that line of contact until the armistice was signed in July 1953. Charles likely died in one of these skirmishes.
Charles’ body was returned to the U. S. port of San Francisco aboard the Bucknell Victory, arriving there on July 10, 1952. The body, accompanied by escort Sgt. Donald Keller, arrived at Melbourne by train on July 26, 1952. He was buried in the quaint little Marietta cemetery, two miles south of Albion, IA and now lies near his parents.
He was awarded a Purple Heart; Combat Infantryman’s Badge; Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Presidential Unit Citation and Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Violetta was very proud of her son and his service to our country. For parents having only one child, it was a great trauma for them to lose Charles at such a young age. His tragic death left his parents nearly alone until their deaths in the 1989 and 1994. But they were especially proud to have had a son that had lived his life well and served our country so others could enjoy their freedoms. Charles followed in his father’s footsteps, with both serving in the military. Like father, like son.
Cousins Virgil and Sharon said, “What an honor it has been to look up this history and Charles’ photos, reminiscing old memories. Hopefully the Collins family will know from up above that "WE" as their family honor and respect Charles for laying down his life for us. "May he rest in peace, dignity and honor."