Yelm High grad one of six soldiers killed Sunday in Afghan attack

Cpl. Sean M. Collins
Cpl. Sean M. Collins

A 2004 Yelm High School graduate was among six soldiers killed Sunday in a suicide attack at a military base in southern Afghanistan.

Cpl. Sean M. Collins was killed in a massive blast at a military outpost in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, the Defense Department reported.

Collins, 25, died doing a job he loved, his mother said.

“He always wanted to be in the Army since he was in kindergarten,” Linda Collins said Tuesday evening. “He wanted to be on the ground, up front.”

Collins was the first service member with ties to South Sound to die in Afghanistan in nearly five months.

The attack was carried out with 1,000 pounds of explosives loaded into a minibus that wouldn’t stop when Afghan guards tried to halt it, Maj. Gen. John Campbell reported in a video conference Tuesday.

The explosion took down a building and wounded 11 of Collins’ comrades in addition to the six who were killed. NATO has made arrests linked to the attack, NATO reported Monday.

The soldiers were assigned to the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. Campbell said that 103 soldiers from his division have died on their current deployment.

“Our sincere condolences go out to families and communities at Fort Campbell, and we will keep the families in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.

The attack came less than a month after six Fort Campbell solders were shot and killed by a lone gunman from the Afghan border police during a training mission.

Collins joined the Army in 2006 and had served two deployments in Iraq. His mother said she stayed in touch with him during his deployments and he usually showed an upbeat attitude because he enjoyed his work. She said he was planning to make a career out of the Army.

“I never worried about him in Iraq,” she said. “But for some reason in your heart there’s a hesitancy when he said he was going to Afghanistan.”

Linda Collins, a teacher at Yelm’s Ridgeline Middle School, said her house has been full of friends and family since news about her son made its way through the community over the past three days.

“This town is close knit,” she said.

She learned of her son’s death Sunday morning when casualty assistance officers knocked on her door about 9:30 a.m. She had recently encouraged her son to keep up his spirits when he said some of his comrades were killed around Thanksgiving.

“Now with what happened with him, it’s unbelievable,” she said.

In addition to his mother, Sean Collins is survived by his father, Patrick Collins of Hawaii, an older brother and two younger sisters.

“He was an awesome person. We are going to miss him,” his mother said.

Funeral services are pending.

Collins died in Kandahar province, birthplace of the Taliban and the setting of violence that took the lives of 37 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 2009 and 2010. The 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division returned home to Pierce County last summer – part of a wave of some 18,000 soldiers who returned to Lewis-McChord this year from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The last local casualties in Afghanistan were on July 24, when four soldiers from Lewis-McChord’s 17th Fires Brigade were killed in a bombing.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/military

The Associated Press contributed to this report.