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D.C. Guardsman Killed After Nine Days in Iraq

At a news conference were, from left, the Rev. Peggy Maclin and her husband, the Rev. Anthony Maclin, of Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capitol Heights, and Joyce Wise and Catherine Grant, sisters-in-law of Staff Sgt. Robin L. Towns.
At a news conference were, from left, the Rev. Peggy Maclin and her husband, the Rev. Anthony Maclin, of Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capitol Heights, and Joyce Wise and Catherine Grant, sisters-in-law of Staff Sgt. Robin L. Towns. (Photos By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 27, 2007

Besides his wife, Sheila, and their blended family of six children, there were few things that Staff Sgt. Robin L. Towns Sr. of Upper Marlboro loved more than entertaining, watching football and barbecuing.

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He was known for his cookouts. During games between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles, Towns, 52, delighted in donning his Eagles jersey and serving guests his signature barbecued chicken and ribs. Family members and friends said they couldn't stand it when he rooted for the Eagles, but they loved his barbecue so much they never complained.

On Wednesday, Towns was killed in Iraq, nine days after he was deployed there as a member of the D.C. National Guard's 275th Military Police Company.

Towns died in Bayji, northwest of Baghdad, of injuries he suffered when an explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations, according to Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Parnell, a spokesman for the D.C. National Guard. Parnell said Towns was the second member of the D.C. National Guard to die fighting in the Iraq war.

At a gathering yesterday at Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capitol Heights, family and friends remembered Towns, who had worked as a corrections officer from December to May, when he left for training. He also worked as a security guard and armored car driver for Dunbar Armored.

Jeff Logan, assistant chief of the Prince George's Department of Corrections, said that though he had been at the department for a short time, "he was on his way to be an asset to the department."

His sister-in-law Joyce Wise said, "He was passionate about everything that he did."

The Rev. Anthony Maclin, pastor of Sanctuary at Kingdom Square, said Towns "loved to serve God, and he had a passion for his brothers and sisters, especially those who serve in the military."

At his modest townhouse in the Campus Way community, a pumpkin sat on the front stoop. A family member who answered the front door said the family did not want to talk.

Towns, a native of Portsmouth, Va., and a 1973 graduate of Manor High School there, enlisted in the Army when he was 17. He rose to platoon sergeant and received an honorable discharge in 1989. He later joined the Army National Guard, serving in units in Maryland, Virginia and the District, where he joined last year. He was serving an 18-month tour when he died.

As a guardsman, Towns worked several natural disasters, including hurricanes Katrina and Isabel. He received the Maryland State Active Duty Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she remembered when Towns's unit was called up for duty. "I saw Staff Sgt. Towns off, along with other members of the D.C. National Guard, just four months ago, with encouraging words that were at odds with what I knew of the danger of the mission of the 275th Military Police Company to train Iraqi police," Norton said in a written statement.

She said that at the send-off for the 275th the group paused to remember the first member of the D.C. National Guard to die in the war, Spec. Darryl T. Dent, 21, of the District.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) called Towns's death "a senseless tragedy."

"It reaffirms that it is time to bring our troops home," he said. "While President Bush says that the violence is decreasing, for this family the violence is very real."

Towns and his wife were married for 10 years. He had four children from a previous relationship, and she had two. Between them, they all loved football.

"He was the Eagles fan in the family; we would have a ball," Wise said. "I miss his barbecue. It's too bad I can't taste it."

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