On Thursday we commemorated the day our country declared independence, July 4, 1776. A federal holiday for many of us, it was a day to relax and celebrate.
Our neighbors to the northwest in the small town of Florissant nearly doubled their population (recorded as 104 in the 2010 census) this July 4 to honor a fallen soldier — someone who died in service of our country.
An estimated crowd of 200 gathered at a small cafe at the intersection of Teller 1 at US 24 to plant flags and pay tribute to Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, who died on June 30, the 10th U.S. service member to be killed in Afghanistan this year. He was 31.
Robbins was a medic assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, according to a report from the Salt Lake Tribune. The Green Beret was assigned to Fort Carson in 2016.
He and his wife, Victoria, acquired what was Costello Street Coffee House over a year ago and rebranded it Costello’s Bakery & Cafe. Their son, Elliott Jr., was born in mid-December, just days before his father’s January deployment — his third combat tour.
The cafe was shuttered on July 2 and 3 due to “an unexpected death in the family,” but a note on the door stated that it would reopen on Thursday, July 4. When members of the tight-knit community learned the tragic news of Sgt. Robbins death, they planned the public outpouring of love for the fallen soldier, his wife and their infant son.
“Elliott was the gracious smiling face that greeted you there, and was always excited and humbled by everyone’s patronage. Elliott often shared their hopes and dreams of building the coffee shop’s business,” wrote Dane and Annemarie Egli and Sandi Boehr in an email sent to the Guffey Community Association website on Tuesday.
“Several of us old military types thought it would be a fitting tribute if they opened their doors to a flood of American flags placed in the borders around the Coffee House by our community, as a show of support. If any of you would like to help us in this effort, break out your flags and feel free to join us and pass the word. I am sure Victoria and little Elliott are going to need all the love our community can show them,” continued the message.
On Thursday, the cafe reopened at its regular time of 6:30 a.m., its marquee bearing the block letter message, “In memory of Sgt. 1st Class Elliott Robbins. All gave some. Some gave all.”
“Freedom Isn’t Free,” read a handmade framed wood sign with red, white and blue lettering and a photo of Robbins’ in dress uniform placed in front of the shop amidst a large flag display. Dozens more Stars and Stripes of all sizes fluttered brightly around the cafe. In addition to the shower of red, white and blue, community members also mowed the grass, planted flowers around the business, and filled a basket with condolences and cards for “Vicky and little Elliott.”
Parking spots and dry eyes were scarce at Costello’s on Thursday.
“To us, showing support for a young widow who has given everything for our country, is one of the most fitting ways we can think of to mark the real meaning of the Fourth of July,” stated the Guffey Community Association email.
According to a news release from the Pentagon, as quoted in a July 2 article in the Gazette, Sgt. Robbins died in a non-combat related incident in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on June 30.
He was due to return home in just a few weeks.
Robbins joined the Army in 2006, serving with the 101st Airborne Division before earning his Green Beret. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan after an earlier deployment to Iraq, earning honors including the Army Commendation Medal with Combat Device and one Oak Leaf Cluster; Army Achievement Medal with one Silver and two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; Valorous Unit Award; and Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Four Knot Device, the Army said.
Robbins also received the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to the release.
His awards also include the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral 2; Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral 2; NATO Medal; Special Forces Tab; Ranger Tab; Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Infantryman Badge; Military Freefall Parachutist Badge; and Parachutist Badge, the release stated.
He served his country, as his father, Freeman Robbins, did before him.
“I wanted, of course, to be part of something way bigger than me, to protect the country. I am sure part of that was Elliott,” Freeman Robbins told Ogden, Utah CBS affiliate KUTV.
He continued, “Once he found his purpose, he flew with it.”
Michelle Karas is an East Coast transplant who has called the Pikes Peak region home for four years. Previously a features writer and Best of the Springs editor for The Gazette, she became editor of Pikes Peak Newspapers in June 2019. Contact Michelle with letters to the editor, guest columns or story ideas at email@example.com.