John James Collins was born on February 21, 1946, in Morningside, Pennsylvania to Jim and June Collins. He had one brother, Ronald Collins, who still resides in the Apollo area. When John was seven years old, his family moved to Washington Township. John attended school in Washington Township. His family attended the Apollo United Presbyterian Church. His home was host to many gatherings of family and friends. One of his favorite pastimes was riding his horse, Penny, in the neighborhood.
After his high school graduation, John enlisted in the United States Army. His basic training was at Fort Benning, Georgia. John went to Fort Polk, Louisiana for Advanced Individual Training. After his training was completed, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. His last visit to his home town was in late April 1967. John arrived in Vietnam in May of 1967. He became the Radio Telephone Operator for Captain John Falcone. He served in B Company, 3rd Battalion of the 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, the Ivy Dragoons. The friendships made in this band of brothers were very strong. Several of his brothers in arms have kept in touch with John’s brother, Ron, and two have traveled here to Apollo to visit his resting place. Every Christmas his grave is honored with a wreath of remembrance from his brother in arms, Ed Goehring.
In November of 1967, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, at a location called Dak To, U.S. forces were directed to eliminate the NVA in that area. The Battle of Dak To raged from November 3 through November 23. On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1967, Charlie Company went up Hill 724 to support Delta Company. Bravo Company followed shortly. Two battalions of the NVA were waiting to ambush the men. From John’s base camp, they ran up Hill 724 carrying 80 to 90 pound packs on their backs. Arriving at the top of the hill, they had almost no time to prepare for the incoming attack. They were barraged with rockets, machine guns, and mortars. Captain Falcone exposed himself to danger repeatedly as he directed his men. As his RTO, John stayed close to him. John also carried ammo to the men in front of him and pulled wounded men back to safety. Captain Falcon was hit and killed and immediately after a mortar round hit John. Medic and good friend, Doug Detman, cared for his wounds, but John died shortly thereafter. Bravo Company lost 18 men that day; the highest death toll of any unit. The total wounded from Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie Companies was over 120. John was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, with the V device for bravery. He hadn’t yet reached his 22nd birthday.
John James Collins rests by his parents in the beautiful and peaceful Riverview Cemetery. John loved his town and his country.
Written by Ronald Collins, John’s brother