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The price of freedom

David Epps's picture

I attended a funeral service last Saturday morning. I didn’t know the deceased or his family, although I know one of his very close friends. Robert W. Collins was eulogized, mourned, honored, and remembered at Fayetteville’s New Hope Baptist Church, possibly the only church in the county large enough to hold the massive crowd gathered for the service.

First Lieutenant Robert Collins, a 2004 graduate of Sandy Creek High School and a 2008 graduate of the United State Military Academy at West Point, was killed in Iraq on April 7.

Civilians, veterans, police and fire personnel, and military personnel all came to pay respects and to stand with a mom and dad, both retired military officers, and with a grieving childhood sweetheart who were all suffering intolerable grief.

The Thursday prior to the service, Lt. Collins was welcomed home as his body was flown into Falcon Field in Peachtree City. There, a large crowd quietly gathered to salute or place hands over hearts as the flag-draped casket was gently and respectfully loaded into a waiting hearse.

Dozens of police cars and scores of motorcycles ridden by members of the Patriot Guard escorted Lt. Collins and his family to the funeral home in Tyrone. Hundreds of ordinary citizens lined the road holding flags and offering silent support.

Sadly, a Westboro Baptist Church news release indicated that members of the “church” would be protesting at Lt. Collins memorial service. Westboro claims that the deaths of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are divine retribution for America’s tolerance of homosexuality. The Patriot Guard was there in case they made good their threat.

The Patriot Guard was initially formed to shelter and protect the funerals from this very “church.” The Patriot Guard positions itself to physically shield the mourners from the presence of the Westboro protesters by blocking the protesters from view with their motorcade, or by having members hold American flags. The group also drowns out the protesters’ chants by singing patriotic songs or by revving motorcycle engines.

Several members of the local Marine Corps League detachment, including myself, came to the service to take our place outside in the line with the Patriot Guard. For whatever reason — perhaps due to answered prayers — the Westboro group failed to show, so the MCL members attended the service and sat with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and members of the American Legion.

Songs were sung, two United Methodist pastors spoke (Collins’ family are members at Hopewell UMC), an Army chaplain shared, prayers were offered, and a touching video tribute featuring photos of Lt. Collins was presented.

A brigadier general was on hand to read a statement from the Army command and to present gold stars to Lt. Collins’ mother and fiance. She also read a citation and presented a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart to Collins’ father.

For my part, and to my surprise, I cried — something I have learned, in 35 years of ministry, not to do at funerals. But on this day, during the video tribute which showed Collins and his large grin in scenes from high school to Iraq — experiencing life with his friends, his family, and his comrades in arms — the tears freely flowed, streaming down my cheeks. I would have been embarrassed but other veterans and soldiers in uniform were doing the same.

The price of freedom — for Americans or for Iraqis — is terribly high. Last Saturday it seemed too high a price to pay. The people gathered at the church expressed their thanks by being present, by showing respect, and by shedding tears.

To those who love freedom and understand what it takes to win and keep it, Lt. Robert Collins will always be remembered as a hero. And though I never met him, he will forever be a hero to me too.

[David Epps is the founding pastor of The Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan ( Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He is also the bishop to the Mid-South Diocese (ICCEC). He may be contacted at A website is available at]


Those church members who interrupt funerals for dead soldiers should be required to have a demonstration license. If not arrest them and book them.

The same applies to the "Patriotic Riders" forming blinds and racing motors!

Good intentions that violate laws are of no consequence.

Anyway I am personally as skeptical of the motorcycle demonstrators as I am of those demonstrating church members. Many, if not most of those riders are simply looking for self respect that they don't have. They love the personal thanks for the nothing that they do.

I know some of them personally and believe me they are not patriots! They let anyone into the "club." I wouldn't want the reverend to line up with them or join, for the most part. Sounds, and is, "tacky."

hutch866's picture

Anything you're against has to be good.

I yam what I yam

That is also your general attitude about democrats and republicans---people don't count much, just parties!

hutch866's picture

At least I can remember who I voted for.

I yam what I yam

The Wedge's picture

Your ignorance of the law of the land and how it applies is laughable. You are a breathing testament and warning to others of the dangers of hallucinogenic drugs and how it can addle a mind. I think I will put together a compilation of your postings under this and other noms de plume and show my children. If DARE doesn't do it for them, your mumblings, stammerings, poetry, and musings ought to scare them straight.

I'd be happy to supply copies of postings if you really need them!
I have never had any hallucinogenic drugs, but it sounds great.
Who is DARE? I know a Dar!

Your kids must be in need of some common sense and truth, you being the parent!

The Wedge's picture

you amuse me.

I can not stand what the Westboro Baptist Church does, but I will defend their right to do it. Popular speech does not need protection. The first amendment was not meant to protect popular speech, but it is meant to protect speech that is unpopular.

of a tribute to a fallen hero. Thank you.

We are now at about 6,400 USA deaths; 50,000+ wounded, maimed, and brain-rattled also.
Not to mention about 200,000 innocent Iraqis and Afghans killed and an unknown quantity wounded by bombs mostly.
Known numbers of the guilty terrorists and sympathizers who have died is unknown with any accuracy.

If "Freedom" had been at stake for us and even if we had secured it if it had, it has been too costly, just as was Viet Nam.

As to the lieutenant who died recently from here, it is simply amazing how we come up with such brave youngsters who will for the most part, without question perform their duties in spite of the politics.

However, next time we may have more trouble manning and providing a National Guard and a Reserve Command to save us.

Now Iran is testing us to see if we will spread out even further so as to be more vulnerable.

Rather than again show our great cockiness politically shouldn't we allow NATO or Israel, or Egypt, etc.,to do the dirty work for once?
We will end up continuing to pay for it anyway.

Must we fight the Third Great Crusades to no avail? Do we expect to convert them all? Or kill them all.

We got the "Tower" people long ago.

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