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thedrifter
08-26-07, 10:29 AM
Published: August 25, 2007 07:25 pm

Iraqi Freedom vet to share his war story
From staff reports

San Marcos — CTMC Hospice Care will welcome Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and 9/11 observer USMC Sergeant Randall D. Watkins for a special 9/11 memorial and luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 6 at the Price Seniors Center in San Marcos.

In 1999, Sgt. Watkins joined the U.S. Marine Corp two days after graduating from high school. He was 17 years old. During boot camp training, he was selected to serve at the Marine barracks in Washington, D.C. as a squad leader with an infantry platoon. It was the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, that Sgt. Watkins witnessed the tragic crash of American Airlines Flight 77.

“I drove by the Pentagon and saw the smoke and chaos. When my platoon found out what had happened and who was responsible for this tragedy, I knew immediately that I must stand up and fight for my country,” Watkins said.

After being stationed overseas and fulfilling his obligations to the USMC, Sgt. Watkins returned to Texas to attend Texas State University.

“I found out the Marines from San Antonio were deploying to Iraq. I didn't have to go since I had already served my commitment with the USMC. I decided to quit school and deploy with the USMC Reserves,” Watkins said. “I had been accepted to the officer candidate program in Austin with the Marine Corps, but I figured I would put it on hold if I could bring my active duty experience to some reserve Marines and save some lives. I was then deployed to Iraq.”

Tragedy struck when a suicide bomber driving a passenger van drove in the path of Watkins and his platoon. The bomb went off and several of Watkins’ comrades were killed instantly.

Sgt. Watkins was struck by shrapnel in both of his knees, right arm, chest and face. Already peppered with shrapnel in his body, an insurgent shot Watkins four times in his chest to try and finish the job. Miraculously, Watkins survived.

“I underwent 13 surgeries in all. The final summary ended up being permanent nerve damage in my left arm and permanent knee damage to my left leg. There were countless acts of heroism above and beyond from nearly every one of the Marines who were there on that day. I am alive. You won't hear me complain.”

Sgt. Watkins recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a minor in Forensic Psychology in December 2006, and is currently half way through earning his Masters in Criminal Justice at Texas State University.

He presently works with the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) at Texas State University. Watkins recently became a certified tactical instructor for the Active Shooter program, which trains first responding officers on how to deal with neutralizing situations such as Columbine, and recently, the Virginia Tech massacres.

Catered by Our Lady of the Lunch, the menu includes chicken, potatoes, green beans, rolls, cake, tea and coffee. An $8 donation will be requested at the door. Lunch will be served by the Kyle/Buda Ladies Auxiliary.

The national anthem will be performed by students at Texas State University Music department. The color guard will be provided by the Kyle/Buda VFW Post # 12058.

RSVP no later than Sept. 4 by calling the Price Seniors Center at 512-392-2900.

Ellie