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Army Pfc. Michael R. Hayes

Died June 14, 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

29, of Morgantown, Ky.; assigned to the 617th Military Police Company, Kentucky Army National Guard, Richmond, Ky.; killed June 14 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Humvee while he was providing security cordon for an improvised explosive device found earlier in Baghdad.

Kentucky Guardsman killed in Iraq attack

By Joe Biesk

Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Kentucky Guardsman was killed in Iraq this week during a rocket-propelled grenade attack, the National Guard said Thursday.

Spc. Michael Ray Hayes, 29, of Morgantown, was with a group of Guardsmen providing security around a possible improvised explosive device near Baghdad on Tuesday when they were attacked, Brig. Gen. Norman Arflack said. Four other soldiers were injured in the blast but were treated and returned to duty. The exact location of the attack was uncertain, said Arflack, Kentucky’s deputy adjutant general.

“The loss of Specialist Hayes reminds us that we’re involved in a serious business,” Arflack told reporters at a morning news conference. “It inspires us to do our best to support our troops and their families.”

Hayes’ death marks the sixth member of the Kentucky National Guard to be killed in Iraq since the start of the war. Hayes, his brother and his sister were part of the 617th Military Police Company based in Richmond.

Earlier this year, the unit was involved in a brutal 30-minute firefight in which 10 Guardsmen fought off dozens of Iraqi insurgents, killing 26 guerrillas, wounding others and capturing one.

Currently, there are about 175 soldiers from the 617th, and 1,127 Kentucky National Guard soldiers overall, in Iraq. The unit was deployed there last November and is expected to stay a year. Among other things, it is responsible for providing convoy security escorts.

“These soldiers, every one of them, are in the fight every day,” Arflack said. “They do not stand down as a result of this.”

Hayes’ family did not wish to speak publicly about his death and were not planning to release a statement, according to a Kentucky National Guard statement.

Spc. Melissa Stewart, his sister, and Spc. James Hayes, his brother, were not with him at the time of the attack, Arflack said. However, they are expected to accompany his body home for the funeral.

Hayes was traveling in a factory-equipped up-armored Humvee — complete with ballistic glass and full armor — at the time of the attack, Arflack said. However, it was uncertain whether Hayes was inside the vehicle when the blast hit, Arflack said.

While Hayes’ death was tragic, it could have “an energizing effect” on his comrades, Arflack said.

“Even though they’re saddened, they’ll move forward,” Hayes said. “They’re going to do what they need to do to right this perceived wrong. So they’re going to continue the fight.”

Maj. Gen. Donald Storm, Kentucky’s adjutant general, was in Iraq at the time of the incident. Storm left for Iraq on Sunday and was expected back soon, Arflack said. Storm has met with soldiers since the attack, he said.

Hayes, a coach for the girls soccer team at Butler County High School, joined the Kentucky National Guard in December 2002. The Bowling Green native attended Western Kentucky University and wanted to be a college soccer coach one day, according to the Guard statement.

David Hocker, a friend of Hayes and booster of the soccer program, told the Daily News of Bowling Green that Hayes was able to come home for a visit two weeks ago and took the soccer team out to dinner and a movie.

“I have never in my life met anyone who loved soccer more than that man,” Hocker said. “If a girl wanted to work extra, he’d come in early or stay late. He spent his own money, buying food for the team or taking them someplace for team-building.”

Capt. Todd Lindner, commander of the 617th, described Hayes as “the consummate soldier” who completed more than 135 missions.

“Michael did the right things for the right reasons,” Lindner said.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher ordered flags at half-staff throughout the state until sunset on the day of Hayes’ funeral.

“Once again, Kentuckians are reminded by the loss of one of their own that freedom is not free,” Fletcher said in a statement.

Fallen Guardsman remembered as devoted coach

By Bruce Schreiner

Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Spc. Michael Ray Hayes’ soccer players gathered around his casket Friday for a final farewell for their beloved coach, who was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq.

The girls from Butler County High School placed roses on the Kentucky Guardsman’s coffin and hugged each other in grief as they remembered the coach they called ‘Mike’, their steadfast supporter.

“He never gave up on any of us,” said one of his players, Tina Laverack, while fighting back tears. “He thought we all had potential in anything. He was just a wonderful person to be around. I think everyone should have had the chance to meet him; they would have loved him.”

Hayes, 29, of Morgantown, was remembered as an exemplary soldier and a loving family member, as well as a devoted soccer coach.

Hayes, a member of the 617th Military Police Company, was the sixth Kentucky Guardsman killed in Iraq. He was laid to rest with full military honors in Bowling Green Gardens after a funeral attended by several hundred people, including Gov. Ernie Fletcher, at Hillvue Heights Church.

Hayes was killed June 14 during an attack near Baghdad as Guardsmen provided security around a possible improvised explosive device. Four other soldiers were injured in the blast.

Maj. Gen. Donald Storm, Kentucky’s adjutant general, said Hayes “epitomized what it means to be a citizen-soldier.”

Hayes’ comrades in the 617th included his brother, Spc. James Hayes, and his sister, Spc. Melissa Stewart. His siblings were not with him during the attack. They came home to mourn with their family.

James Hayes eulogized his brother as a hero who, in his spare time, gave candy and sodas to children in Baghdad.

“He believed and loved what every single person over there is fighting for,” James Hayes said.

But he never forgot about his soccer team back home. James Hayes said his brother displayed cards and letters from his players while in Iraq.

“He talked about you guys in down time more than you guys will ever know,” James Hayes told the soccer players.

The players wore their soccer jerseys and black armbands in honor of their coach. Sobs punctuated a slide show of Hayes coaching his team.

“He said that he went to Iraq just because we were scared of what had happened with the bombings,” said one of his players, Jacqueline Embry.

Her sister and teammate, Danielle Embry, said that Hayes went to Iraq because “he just thought it was his duty as an American citizen.”

Near the end of the funeral, Hayes’ fellow soldiers — one by one — walked to his coffin, stopped and saluted.

Capt. Todd Lindner, commander of the 617th, said in a statement that Hayes was “the consummate soldier, always in the right place doing the right thing.” Hayes completed more than 135 missions in Iraq and was involved in more than 30 actions with insurgents, Lindner said.

“Michael did the right things for the right reasons,” he said. “He has paid the ultimate price defending freedom and he will never be forgotten.”

Hayes’ survivors include his mother, Barkley, and his fiance, Melissa.

“We struggle through each day with this tragedy and pray that one day we may understand why he was taken from us,” his family said in a statement read by Storm after the graveside service.

His family said Hayes had a bright future that will go unfulfilled. “That is the greatest tragedy of all,” the statement said.

Storm said that Hayes’ siblings — who have performed the same duties as their slain brother — can choose whether to return to Iraq.

At the cemetery, while expressing his condolences to the family, Storm said he reminded Hayes’ sister that she could stay home.

“She said, ‘No way, sir,”’ Storm said in an interview.

Storm said he did not know what Hayes’ brother would decide.

A total of 1,156 Kentucky National Guard soldiers are in Iraq.

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