The late B.T. Collins, a popular Republican state legislator and the driving force behind the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Capitol Park, will have his name enshrined in that very memorial Sunday along with two other Vietnam veterans.
They are among hundreds of veterans who will be honored this Memorial Day weekend in Sacramento.
The Capitol Park event will take place at noon on Sunday. Captain Brien Thomas Collins served in the U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam where he lost an arm and a leg in combat, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. William Fortier.
Collins went on to serve as chief of staff for Gov. Jerry Brown in his first administration, and as director of the California Conservation Corps and the California Youth Authority.
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He later served as a Republican state assemblyman representing Sacramento’s 5th District from 1991-93 before he died of a heart attack.
“He was a lifelong advocate for veterans and a prime mover behind the building of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” Fortier said. “He was recovering from the loss of his right arm and leg after being blown off in a Vietnam firefight and insisted on having his hand replaced with a hook. He became known to friends and family as Captain Hook.”
Collins will be joined on the wall by Pfc. Richard Carmine Borrelli of Sierra Madre in Los Angeles County and Ensign Jan Bryan Jones of Ione.
“Borelli, a U.S. Army veteran, died as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange,” Fortier said. “Jones, a U.S. Navy veteran, took his own life in 1973 as a direct result of the severe post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced due to his service in Vietnam.”
They will join 5,657 names already on the memorial, said Paul Sullivan, deputy secretary of communications for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Starting at 7 a.m. Sunday, every name will be read aloud. “It’s really poignant – we expect a large crowd.” The addition of Vietnam veterans who didn’t die in combat began in 2014 with the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Honor Committee, Sullivan explained. “Family members and friends are continually adding names for consideration – last year we added 32 names.”
A day earlier on Saturday, the California History Military Foundation will lay a wreath at the California Wall of Honor, 1119 Second St. in Old Sacramento, to remember Californians who have lost their lives since Sept. 11, 2001, in the global war on terror.
The Wall of Honor already has 480 names engraved on it, and another 265 fallen warriors will be acknowledged, Fortier said. The foundation hopes to open a new California Military History Museum in Old Sacramento that will add the 265 names to the wall, as well as honor the nearly 2 million veterans still living in California, Fortier said.