Justin Allan Rollins
Specialist, United States Army
RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 264-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.They died March 5, 2007. in Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their unit during combat operations.They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Justin M. Estes, 25, of Sims, Arkansas
For more information in regard to this release
the media can contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office
at (910) 432-0661
New Hampshire Soldier Killed in Iraq Planned to Pop the Question
A soldier from Newport, New Hampshire who was killed in Iraq this week, had planned to propose marriage to his long-time girlfriend during an upcoming leave.
Army Specialist Justin Rollins was killed by a roadside bomb Monday. He was 22.
His father, Skip Rollins, said he was scheduled to come home in about three weeks and planned to pop the question to girlfriend Brittney Murray.
"We love Brittany like she was our own daughter," Skip Rollins said. "We were looking forward to having her as our daughter-in-law."
Skip Rollins said his son had recently purchased a diamond ring for Murray. Rollins was scheduled to have a two-week break in March or April and be rotated out of Iraq in August, his father said.
The 2003 Newport High School graduate was an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne. He recently was promoted to squad sniper.
"The Army gave him a dinky little scope," said the elder Rollins. "He went out and spent $600 of his own money so he could shoot farther."
According to his father, Rollins was offered the chance to become an Army recruiter, but he didn't want a cushy job and instead wanted to be with his men.
"He kicked and screamed and wanted to be in Iraq," his dad said.
He said his son also recently told him in a telephone call from Iraq that he thought there was no higher honor than to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. That's where he will be laid to rest after a service in his hometown.
The flag at Newport Middle High School was lowered to half-staff on Tuesday. A constant stream of family and friends came to the Rollins home throughout the day.
"It's the support that means so much," Skip
Rollins said. "The phone never stops ringing."
Army Specialist Justin Rollins, 22, died this week after being injured by a roadside bomb. His father, Skip Rollins, told the Eagle-Times newspaper that this son was going to return home in three weeks to propose to his girlfriend, Brittney Murray.
Skip Rollins also said that his son recently
told him that there was no higher honor than to be buried in Arlington
National Cemetery, where he will be laid to rest after a service in Newport.
6 March 2007:
"There is no greater honor than to be buried in Arlington Cemetery," Justin Rollins, 22, had told his father recently in a call home from Iraq. Now, Skip Rollins will honor his son's request after the 22-year-old was killed Monday in a bomb attack in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin.
Rollins was among six soldiers who died when the bomb exploded near their vehicles during combat operations.
Scores of family and friends were at the Rollins home on Tuesday grieving the loss of a beloved son, friend and a fiancée to Brittney Murray.
"It's the support that means so much," Skip Rollins said. "The phone never stops ringing."
Justin, a 2003 Newport High School graduate, was scheduled to come home in about three weeks when he planned to propose to his longtime girlfriend Brittney Murray.
"We love Brittany like she was our own daughter," Skip Rollins said. "We were looking forward to having her as our daughter-in-law."
Rollins said his son had recently purchased a 3-carat diamond ring to present to Murray when he came home.
"He was going to come home and ask her to marry him," Rollins said. "She was his first and only true love."
Rollins said his son wanted to be in the Army and in Iraq to be with his men.
"You couldn't hold him back. He had to be there."
Justin, a specialist assigned to the 2/505 3rd Brigade of the 82 Airborne as an infantryman, was recently promoted to squad sniper.
"The Army gave him a dinky little scope," Rollins said. "He went out and spent $600 of his own money so he could shoot farther."
According to his father, Justin was picked from the top 10 percent of his class to go to recruiter's school. Justin told his father that he didn't want a cushy job and instead wanted to be with his men.
"He kicked and screamed and wanted to be in Iraq," his dad said.
Rollins was sent to Iraq on Aug. 8 and two weeks after arriving he was involved in his first firefight with three insurgents. According to his father, Justin fought the insurgents by himself and told his men to take cover so they wouldn't get hurt.
"That's the kind of soldier he was."
Justin's parents, Skip and Rhonda, last saw their son on Aug. 8 when they took a trip with Murray to Ft. Bragg, N.C., to see him off to the Middle East. Justin was scheduled to have a two-week break in March or April and then be rotated out of Iraq in August.
Skip Rollins said he expects to have his son home within five to 10 days at which time the family will hold a service in Newport. After the service, Justin will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Rollins family was notified Monday by the Army of Justin's death.
"I saw them walk up the driveway," Skip Rollins said. "When I saw them, I knew."
The flag at Newport Middle High School was lowered to half-staff on Tuesday. A constant stream of family and friends came to the Rollins home throughout the day to offer their support.
"He had a great heart, and he was a wonderful young man," teacher Kathryn Hanson, a close family friend, told WMUR-TV.
Hanson said one of the things that stood out about Rollins was his smile.
"He might have been a little bit mischievous, but when you had him in class and you saw him, he would turn on his smile and his charm, and it washed away anything else," she said.
School staff said Rollins had visited some of his teachers after basic training - and they noticed a difference in him immediately.
"It brought about a change and a purpose, I think, that was very important to him," Hanson said. "He found what he was supposed to do, and he was extremely proud of what he was doing."
Hanson said Rollins was a gunner on a Humvee and had a close call in December when he was injured by a roadside bomb.
"You hope you will be one of the towns or one of the cities to escape such a tragedy, but unfortunately, we're not," Hanson said.
Prior to his death, Justin was seriously injured on Nov. 26 when he was out on patrol as a gunner in a Humvee. While driving through Samarra, Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded, sending him flying through the air. He landed in the back of the Humvee.
"He had shrapnel in his neck and arm and was bleeding bad," Rhonda Rollins said at the time.
Justin's fellow soldiers took him to the hospital where doctors removed the shrapnel and stitched him back together.
He was given a morphine drip and sent back to base. Within a few days he was back at work before any of the stitches were removed. In less than two weeks he was back on patrol.
Skip Rollins said his son was supposed to take two weeks off because of the injuries, but Justin told his dad he needed to be there for his men.
"It was all about the band of brothers," Skip Rollins said. "All the kids were so tight. They were there for each other."
Justin was awarded the Purple Heart for the Nov. 26 incident. Skip Rollins said his son was also awarded a second Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the combat infantry badge.
"Last year he earned his expert infantry badge," Skip Rollins said. "True-blue. Without any failures."
According to Rhonda, Justin enjoyed being a soldier and had taken a liking to the Iraqi children. She said during an interview in December that Justin wore a Mickey Mouse patch on his uniform and gave candy to the children.
"We're very proud of him and we'll miss him," Skip Rollins said.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Fallen N.H. soldier to be buried at Arlington on Monday
NEWPORT, NEW HAMPSHIRE - Shortly before he was deployed to Iraq last summer, Army Specialist Justin Rollins spoke with designated hitter David Ortiz before a Red Sox game, then watched him hit a home run.
''Justin had said, 'If he hits this ball out of the park, I can go to Iraq and die a happy man,''' said family friend Kathryn Hanson, who spoke with Rollins' father Wednesday. Skip Rollins was at the game with his son.
Rollins, 22, died last week in Iraq and will be buried Monday at Arlington National Cemetery, with a baseball autographed by Ortiz.
Ortiz, who learned of Rollins' death while at spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, remembered the encounter well and said he had promised to dedicate a home run to Rollins.
''He was such a good kid,'' Ortiz said, in a report posted on mlb.com, the Web site for Major League Baseball. ''He came to Fenway to watch a game and he wanted to meet me. It was going to be his last game at Fenway because he was going to Iraq. He came by the clubhouse and I talked to him for a while. He just seemed like he was so full of life.''
Ortiz later hit a two-run, walkoff homer to win the June 24 game against the Phillies in the 10th inning.
''I told him at the time that that home run I was going to dedicate to him for going to Iraq,'' Ortiz said.
Ortiz also gave Rollins an autographed ball, which the soldier cherished, said Hanson, who taught Rollins at Newport High School.
''It blows our minds that he would have remembered that encounter,'' she told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
After learning of Rollins' death, Ortiz promised to send two autographed balls and a signed jersey to his family. One ball, inscribed ''To Justin Rollins, rest in peace. God bless, David Ortiz,'' will be buried with him.
Rollins was one of six U.S. soldiers killed March 5, 2007, by a roadside bomb in Samarra, Iraq. The 2003 Newport High School graduate was an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne and had recently been promoted to squad sniper.
At his funeral, he will be posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, and several other Army awards.
The funeral will be Saturday at the South Congregational Church in Newport. Visiting hours are Friday at the Newport Opera House.
Lynch has ordered flags on all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff
Friday and Saturday.
Courtesy of Major League Baseball:
We're all going to get them. It's not a matter of if -- just a matter of when. Those phone calls, the bits of news that strike from nowhere, turning a perfectly average day into an exceedingly miserable one. They may be a part of life, but that doesn't make them any easier to take.
On Tuesday morning, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz got one of those messages. A young soldier he met last summer at Fenway Park was killed last week in Iraq.
Sitting at his locker in the clubhouse of City of Palms Park after the morning workout, Ortiz called a reporter over.
"I have a story for you," Ortiz said.
With that he told the story of meeting Specialist Justin Rollins. Within minutes, this mountain of a man -- the one with the megawatt smile, whose booming voice precedes him into any room -- was reduced to tears.
Rollins, 22, of Newport, New Hampshire, was killed with five other soldiers on March 5 in Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near their unit during combat operations. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"He was such a good kid," Ortiz said. "He came to Fenway to watch a game, and he wanted to meet me. It was going to be his last game at Fenway because he was going to Iraq. He came by the clubhouse, and I talked to him for a while. He just seemed like he was so full of life."
So impressed was he by Rollins, Ortiz promised to hit a home run for the young soldier. Ortiz kept that pledge, and for added measure, it was one of his patented walk-off numbers, in the 10th inning against the Phillies on June 24.
"I told him at the time that that home run I was going to dedicate to him for going to Iraq," Ortiz said. "And just today I received a message from his family."
Clubhouse attendant Jared Pinkos had the unenviable task of delivering the news.
"He came in jovial, typical Ortiz, laughing," Pinkos said. "But this just knocked him out. He started shaking."
Asked to send something for the funeral, scheduled for Saturday in Newport, with burial on Monday in Arlington National Cemetery, Ortiz has dispatched a white No. 34 uniform jersey, with the inscription, "My deepest condolences to the Rollins family. It was an honor to meet Justin and I will keep him in my prayers. Sincerely, David Ortiz."
He is also sending a ball, to be placed in Rollins' casket, on which he wrote: "To Justin Rollins, Rest in peace. God bless, David Ortiz," and another with his autograph as a memento for the Rollins family.
"It's just so sad," he said. "He's a young kid, full of life. Unbelievable, you know. It's just sad."
Ortiz paused, turned away and grabbed a T-shirt from his locker, wiping the tears from his eyes.
Though it was the first time Ortiz had received a call informing him of the death of a soldier who was also a fan, he is no stranger to the pain of that kind of news. His mother, Angela Rosa Arias, died in a car accident on Jan. 1, 2002, at the age of 46. Her birthday was last week. He also has a friend coping with the loss of his own mother two days ago.
The memories brought on by his mother's birthday, his friend's loss and, now, the news of Rollins' death have all hit him very hard, he said.
"It just got me," he said. "I think of the pain coming from his family."
"I can't believe he remembered Justin," said Rollins' girlfriend, Brittney Murray. "Well, I can believe it because Justin left such an impression on people. But I know that Justin would be very excited right now. I remember him saying that home run just made him so happy, especially since it was dedicated to him."
Rollins was to have come home on leave in April, on his wish list a trip to Fenway with Murray, who has never been to the fabled park.
"That was one thing he said -- 'We have to go to a Red Sox game. I really want to take you to Fenway.' That was one of his priorities for his leave," Murray said. "He loved baseball, and he loved the Red Sox. He told me his favorite place in the world was Fenway. It meant a lot to him."
At his funeral service, Rollins will posthumously be awarded the Army Service Ribbon, the Iraq Campaign Medal Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Ribbon, the National Defense Medal Ribbon, the Army Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Good Conduct Medal Ribbon, two Purple Heart Medal Ribbons and the Bronze Star with Valor.
"It's gong to be a long road," Murray said. "But he lived very passionately, and he passed that on to me. I'm glad to have known him. He believed in what he was doing, and he died doing what he loved."
Donations may be made to the Justin A. Rollins
Memorial Scholarship Fund, payable to the Newport School District, c/o
Diane Fisher, 245 North Main St., Newport, N.H. 03773.
NEWPORT, NEW HAMPSIRE - Snow, sleet and slick roads couldn't deter hundreds of mourners who turned out Saturday for the funeral of a New Hampshire soldier killed in Iraq.
About 400 people crowded into the South Congregational Church to honor Army Specialist Justin Rollins, 22, who was killed by a roadside bomb blast in Samarra, Iraq, on March 5, 2007.
Governor John Lynch and U.S. Senator Judd Gregg joined Rollins' family, friends and comrades, recalling Rollins as a free-spirited, rambunctious youth who found his calling as a paratrooper.
"He will always have a place in the state of New Hampshire, as a hero," Lynch said in his remarks.
Pastor Donna Leslie told the congregation that everyone who knew Rollins was amazed to see him transform in the military, from a joker and jock in high school to a mature, polished soldier who turned down safer jobs so that he could join his unit in combat.
A 2003 graduate of Newport High School, Rollins played center on the football team and was a shot putter known for pushing himself and often, others to the edge with high-energy antics.
Leslie told how, shortly after Rollins died, his mother, Rhonda Rollins, asked her if Justin was finally an angel.
"Justin was never an angel on Earth," Leslie said, pausing as family and friends chuckled. "But, yeah, he's earned his wings."
The Rev. R. Craig MacCreary added that Rollins approached his military service with vigor, regardless of his assignment. When his unit was sent South in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Rollins not only saved people, but also made sure their pets were rescued and cared for.
Rollins' father, Mitchel Rollins, last saw his son during a visit to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, in August, shortly before his unit was deployed to Iraq. He asked his son if there were any last-minute things he wanted before shipping out.
"He said to me, 'Dad, just tell the American people to support us and love us, and we will do our jobs,' " his father said.
Rollins decided to join the Army after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Behind the flag-draped casket were photographs and mementos of Rollins' life, including a white No. 34 baseball jersey, autographed by Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
Rollins was a devoted Red Sox fan who met Ortiz at a game in Fenway Park last year. Ortiz also sent an autographed ball to be placed in Rollins' casket.
Rollins was expected to return home on leave next month, when family members said he planned to propose to his girlfriend, Brittany Murray, and see the Red Sox at Fenway.
A slide show at the service showed scenes from Rollins' life, from days spent horsing around with his brother, Jonathan Rollins, to pictures of deer hunting trips with his family. One scene that drew laughs showed Rollins in a tuxedo, after picking up his date for the senior prom in a golf cart.
"That was totally Justin," said Kim Turgeon, 22, of New Bedford, Mass., Rollins' prom date. "Everyone else in the procession had these big fancy limos, and Justin shows up in a golf cart all decked out."
Rollins will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.
Puppy Helps Tie Family to Slain Soldier
25 May 2007
The family of Army Spcialist Justin Rollins feels a little better thanks to a puppy, fresh from a nearly 6,000-mile journey from Iraq, that connects them to one of the soldier's last happy moments.
Seeing photos of the 22-year-old nuzzling a
puppy from a newborn litter the night before his death in a roadside bombing
in Iraq prompted Rollins' family and girlfriend to start pushing to adopt
Hero, who arrived in New Hampshire on Friday.
"It was the last bit of happiness Justin had," said Rollins' girlfriend, Brittney Murray.
Rollins and some other soldiers from the 82nd Airborne found the puppies outside an Iraqi police station March 4 but weren't allowed to bring them back into their barracks. Rollins was killed the next day in Samarra.
After Murray saw the photos, she sought help finding the short-haired dog. U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes contacted the U.S. Central Command, which ordered the 82nd to retrieve the pup and turn it over to delivery company DHL.
Hero was named as a reminder of the man who planned to propose to Murray on his next visit home, she and Rollins' mother said.
The female pup arrived Thursday night at Kennedy International Airport in New York, visited a veterinarian and arrived in New Hampshire overnight. The floppy-eared pooch _ mostly white, with brown spots along the right side of its muzzle and paws still too big for its 15-pound body _ was a hit Friday as she sniffed around Hodes' office, pausing to piddle on the carpet.
Whether the mixed-breed puppy is definitely the one in the photo didn't matter. Several people claimed credit for the dog's name, but everyone agreed it was a fitting tribute to Rollins, whose parents said he was always an animal lover.
"We have a dog and three cats at home. When he was little, they all were on his bed," said his mother, Rhonda.
Rollins was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with a baseball signed by Red Sox player David Ortiz, who met him last summer shortly before Rollins' unit was deployed.
"He really did believe in what he was fighting
for," Rhonda Rollins said of her paratrooper son. "I think he'd be thrilled
there was a positive story from the negative thing that happened to us.
... He was such a happy-go-lucky guy."
27 May 2008:
Newport, New Hampshire -- More than a year after Justin Rollins died fighting in Iraq, his loved ones gathered on Elm Street to honor the legacy of the 22-year-old Newport soldier.
Gathered across the street from a giant American flag held aloft by two fire engines, a crowd of about 200 Newport residents and other well-wishers applauded as the Elm Street Bridge was named for Rollins, an Army specialist who was killed in Sammara on March 5, 2007.
“If they dedicated something to Justin every single day for the next 10 years, it would not be enough,” said Muriel Brock, a friend of the Rollins family, as she stood near one of two new, blue signs identifying the span as the “Specialist Justin A. Rollins Bridge.”
Rollins, a gunner on an armored Humvee, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when two roadside bombs went off near his unit, killing him and other soldiers. Still more lives were lost in a third explosion.
Governor John Lynch, who attended the dedication, praised Rollins for his sacrifice.
“Today, we are naming a bridge for a hero,” Lynch said. “Our hero.”
It's been a difficult and memorable year for the Rollins family.
There was the first Christmas since his death, when Rhonda Rollins, Justin Rollins' mother, didn't know if she would be able to bring herself to decorate a Christmas tree. Justin Rollins, who had an older brother, had not been able to make it home for Christmas the year before, and the family had looked forward to celebrating the holiday together last December.
There was his birthday in November, when the family visited his grave in Arlington National Cemetery with members of Justin's unit, the 82nd Airborne Division. Rhonda left behind two pictures of Justin, one of him with his dog Kayla, and another of him in Iraq. Brittney Murray, Justin Rollins' girlfriend, left behind a teddy bear. Justin Rollins had planned to propose to her after his tour.
There was last Memorial Day, which came soon after the Rollins family welcomed a new member: one of the puppies Justin had adopted in Iraq the day before his death. Hero, who is now about 14 months old, was shown plenty of affection by those at yesterday's ceremony.
There were the times Rhonda Rollins would see butterflies and think that Justin had sent them to her. Some days, she would say she really needs a butterfly, and one would come to her. She said she knows that she will see her son again some day.
There was the realization that she wasn't really getting the help she needed from a counselor, and the comfort she received from meeting other mothers who had lost their sons.
Rhonda Rollins, who had pinned a picture of her son and Kayla to her coat for the dedication, joined the American Gold Star Mothers, a club for mothers who lost children who were in the military. She was happy to find others who understood how she and Justin Rollins' father, Skip, felt.
She started speaking with the mothers of soldiers who were killed with Justin, and she learned their sons had so much in common.
They were all handsome, like Justin, said Rhonda Rollins. They were all jokesters like Justin, who taped the buttons on the kitchen faucet sprayer down during his last leave. He watched as his mother was sprayed with water.
Skip Rollins said he's glad to know that his sons' efforts as a soldier were appreciated, and the support from the community and others has helped the family cope with the loss.
“Knowing that my son didn't die in vain is what really helps me,” he said in an interview last week.
One reason Skip Rollins chose not join the military in the latter years of the Vietnam War was the negative reaction experienced by many returning soldiers. He said he was reluctant to serve what he considered an ungrateful nation.
History has not repeated itself in the case of Justin Rollins and other soldiers who fought in Iraq.
People sent condolence cards. They thanked Skip Rollins for what his son did. They attended his wake on a nasty weather day. One of Rhonda Rollins' friends walked Hero a few times a week. They donated money toward the Justin A. Rollins Memorial Fund that will go to a Newport High School senior.
And of course, they made the bridge a reality.
“Now that we no longer have a son, at least
my son has a legacy in this town,” Skip Rollins said.
ROLLINS, JUSTIN ALLAN
Posted: 7 March 2007 Updated: 15 March 2007 Updated: 16 March 2007 Updated: 17 March 2007 Updated: 19 March 2007 Updated: 25 March 2007 Updated: 7 June 2007 Updated: 2 July 2007 Updated: 27 May 2008
Updated: 1 June 2008 Updated: 10 October 2008 Updated: 12 February 2011
Photo By M. R. Patterson, February 2011
Photos Courtesy of Holly, June 2008
Photo Courtesy of Holly, March 2007