By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Mississippi’s top soldier, Adjutant Gen. Augustus L. Collins, said the state’s members of the military have a long “lineage” of acts of bravery while fighting for their country.
Collins, a Booneville native, was the keynote speaker at Thursday’s Mississippi Economic Council annual meeting where the theme was a salute to the state’s military personnel.
Speaking to a crowd of about 2,000 at the Jackson Convention Complex, Collins told the story of the 1847 Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican-American War where the Mississippi Rifles under the command of Jefferson Davis played a key role in fighting back a larger Mexican force and turning the tide in the war toward the United States.
“That lineage is alive today in the 155th Combat Unit,” said Collins, who was the commander of the 155th Separate Armored Brigade while on active duty in Iraq in 2005. The mobilization in 2005 was the state’s largest since World War II.
Collins said during the deployment to Iraq he saw time and again acts of bravery by Mississippians under his command.
He told the story of Sgt. First Class Ellis Ray Martin of Summit who was severely injured by a roadside bomb in the infamous “triangle of death” region. He said Martin is alive today because of the initial care he received from Sgt. Robert Shane Pugh of Meridian.
The major general went on to say that Pugh, a combat medic, also was critically injured by the bomb, but was able to give instructions to other soldiers on the scene on how to care for Martin until help arrived. But the help did not arrive in time to save Pugh.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend,” said Collins quoting the biblical passage from John 15:13.
Gov. Phil Bryant, who named Collins adjutant general in January 2012, also spoke and praised the military and what it means to the state, both in terms of security and the economy.
He said the state’s defense industry employs Mississippians who “build equipment and weapons to defend liberty across the world.”
Collins commands more than 12,000 National Guard and Air National Guard members.