Pa. soldier killed in Afghanistan
The remains of a Pennsylvania Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan are being returned to Dover Air Force Base today.
Sgt. Patrick Hawkins, of Carlisle, was one of four soldiers who died Sunday when their unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar Province, according to the Department of Defense.
Hawkins, 25, was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, Ga.
He was killed while moving to aid a wounded soldier, Lt. Col. Patrick Ellis, commander of Hawkins' battalion, said in a statement.
"Sgt. Patrick Hawkins was a brave and incredibly talented Ranger," Ellis said. "His actions that night were in keeping with the epitome of the Ranger Creed: 'I will never leave a fallen comrade.'"
He enlisted in the Army February 2010 and was on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.
Hawkins has received numerous military honors, including the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon and Presidential Unit Citation.
Posthumously, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Purple Heart.
He is survived by his wife, Brittanie Hawkins, of Lansing, Kan., and his parents, Roy and Shelia Hawkins, of Carlisle.
Hawkins' death comes as the partial government shutdown has halted benefits for families of military personnel killed in action. The families of Hawkins and the three others slain in the attack won't get death benefits that include a $100,000 payment, housing allowance or help with burial expenses.
The Defense Department "does not currently have the authority to pay death gratuities for the survivors of service members killed in action – typically a cash payment of $100,000 paid within three days of the death of a service member," according to the Pentagon.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this afternoon that the administration expects the problem to be resolved today.
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Lou Barletta is a co-sponsor of a House bill to make appropriations available for death benefits during the shutdown.
"Brave men and women like Sgt. Hawkins are risking their lives every day so that we may continue to enjoy our freedoms in the United States of America. Sadly, many end up making the ultimate sacrifice so that others may breathe free," Barletta said in a statement. "Their families and loved ones should not be forgotten in such difficult times, simply because Congress is still ironing out its differences."
The situation has already caused hardship for military families, however.
Shannon Collins -- the mother of 19-year-old Lance Cpl. James Collins, who was killed in a separate attack this weekend in Afghanistan, told NBC that the "government is hurting the wrong people" but delaying the death benefits.
"Families shouldn't have to worry about how they're going to bury their child," she said. "Families shouldn't have to worry about how they're going to feed their family if they don't go to work this week."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is traveling to the Delaware base for the arrival of their remains, an unusual move for the country's top defense official, according to the Associated Press.