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- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Spc. Jonathan A. Hughes
Died March 19, 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
21, of Lebanon, Ky.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery Regiment, Kentucky Army National Guard, Campbellsville, Ky.; killed March 19 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Iraq.
Kentucky Guardsman killed in Iraq
By Bruce Schreiner
SPRINGFIELD, Ky. — Spc. Jonathan A. Hughes’ infant son clutched a photo of his father Monday, unaware of the grief around him as others mourned his father’s death during a bloody weekend for Kentucky National Guard soldiers in Iraq.
Hughes, 21, of Lebanon, was killed Saturday when his Humvee struck a roadside bomb while he accompanied a U.S. convoy headed to Baghdad International Airport. A fellow Kentucky Guardsman in the same vehicle was wounded.
Three other Kentucky Guard soldiers were wounded in another ambush Sunday. Kentucky Adjutant Gen. Donald C. Storm called it “a very difficult weekend.”
In a shaky voice, Hughes’ high school sweetheart and widow, Sara, called her husband a hero in an emotional tribute while holding their son, Peyton.
“Our son is only 9 months old, but he will always know that his daddy loved him and will be proud to say that his daddy was an American hero,” she said at a news conference at the Kentucky National Guard Armory in Springfield.
Hughes was posthumously promoted to sergeant and was awarded the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal.
The three Guardsmen wounded Sunday are with the 617th Military Police unit, based in Richmond and Bowling Green.
That clash began when dozens of insurgents attacked a U.S. convoy of military police and artillery units from the Kentucky Guard late Sunday about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. U.S. troops killed 26 militants in the fight.
The four wounded soldiers were transported to Germany for medical treatment. All four are in stable condition, but the Guard didn’t release their names or the nature of their injuries, citing Army regulations and federal law. The soldiers’ families have been notified, Guard officials said.
Storm said the attacks would strengthen the Guard’s determination to finish the mission in Iraq. About 1,160 Kentucky Guard soldiers are now deployed in Iraq — the largest contingent since the war began more than two years ago.
“These kind of instances just increase our resolve to remedy the thugs and the evil people that commit these kind of violent and evil acts,” Storm said.
Hughes was the third Kentucky Army National Guard soldier killed in Iraq. Capt. David Page, a Kentucky Guard spokesman, said Hughes’ Humvee was fully armored.
Flags were lowered to half-staff at Marion County High School in Lebanon, where Hughes graduated in 2002.
Family and friends called him by his middle name, Adam. At the high school, he was remembered as a quiet young man who liked working with his hands.
“He was a really good kid,” high school principal Chuck Hamilton said. “He was very conscientious about pleasing people and doing things the right way.”
Hughes was 17 when he joined the Guard in May 2001. He was assigned to Bravo Battery 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery unit, based in Campbellsville. The unit mobilized in November and deployed to Iraq in January.
His widow said he joined the Guard knowing he would be called one day to “serve our country.” She said her husband “was loved by so many, and he will be missed even more.”
At the news conference, she was accompanied by her parents, her in-laws and other relatives. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Capt. Lawrence Joiner, commander of Bravo Company, said “words cannot express our love and brotherhood” for Hughes.
“He will forever be a part of our lives,” Joiner said in a statement.
Storm pledged the Guard’s full support to help Hughes’ family.
“We will do everything as an organization that we can possibly do to assist and take care (of) and love this family,” he said.
For the Kentucky Guard soldiers in Iraq, the risks are greater than at any time, Storm said — noting the higher deployments and the continued attacks by insurgents. Storm said the outcome in Iraq will have consequences in this country.
“This is about the future of the way we live here,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, this is part of the global war on terror. If the terrorists weren’t there when we went in, they’re there now.”
In nearby Lebanon, Beverly Durham said word of Hughes’ death spread quickly.
“It hits hard when it hits a small town,” she said.
Durham said she would like to see American soldiers come home.
“I think it’s good that we went over there to help them, but now we should let them do it themselves and get out,” she said.
Fallen Kentuckian remembered as dedicated soldier
LEBANON, Ky. — A Kentucky National Guard soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq was remembered Monday as a dedicated soldier and family man who wanted to make life better for the Iraqi people.
Jonathan A. Hughes, who died a couple months shy of his 22nd birthday, was buried with full military honors after a funeral in a Catholic church near his hometown in south-central Kentucky.
At the time of his death, Hughes had the rank of specialist with a Campbellsville-based unit but was promoted posthumously to sergeant.
Hughes’ wife, Sara, held their 9-month-old son, Peyton, in a Winnie the Pooh blanket during a graveside service under a dark sky.
Hughes — who went by his middle name, Adam, among family and friends — was eulogized by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and a close friend at his funeral, which drew an overflow crowd at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church.
“I do believe that if Adam was given a chance to live his life again, he wouldn’t change a thing,” said Daniel Robinson, who had been Hughes’ friend since the sixth grade. “He would still be with Sara and he still would make the choice to join the Army National Guard.”
Hughes’ company commander in Iraq, Capt. Lawrence Joiner, sent a written tribute to his fallen comrade. Hughes was a good soldier who, when given a task, “would just nod his head and do what was asked,” Joiner said in the tribute, which was read at the funeral. “He never complained or required any special attention. He just did his job and did it well.”
Joiner said Hughes wanted “a better way of life for everyone, no matter what race, what religion or what country.” He said that Hughes’ “sacrifice will lessen the sacrifice of others.”
Robinson, choking back tears during his eulogy, said: “It’s not about whether the war is good or bad, right or wrong. God honors the heart. Adam served his country out of honor for his freedom. He is a hero.”
Sobs could be heard among the hundreds of mourners during Robinson’s eulogy in which he recalled their carefree days of youth.
“I have lost a good friend,” he said.
Hughes died on March 19 when his Humvee struck a roadside bomb as he accompanied a convoy headed to Baghdad International Airport. A fellow Kentucky Guardsman in the same vehicle was wounded.
He was the third Kentucky Army National Guard soldier killed in Iraq.
McConnell, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, said Hughes made an “extraordinary sacrifice on behalf of his country.
“When we saw the face of evil on 9-11, 2001, we knew that Americans would step forward to confront this evil, and make this a better world,” McConnell said.
The Sept. 11 commission concluded that al-Qaida did not have a close relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime and Iraq was not involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. President Bush has said links between Iraq and al-Qaida in part justified the war.
“If there were no terrorists in Iraq on 9-11 (2001), they’re there now, and they’re inflicting harm not only on U.S. service people but also on Iraqi people,” Maj. Gen. Donald Storm, Kentucky’s adjutant general, said in an interview later.
McConnell, a stalwart supporter of President Bush’s Iraq policy, said that Iraqis recently went to the polls for national elections and “are on their way to becoming a normal country.”
“So in the midst of all of this grief, let us also remember the accomplishments of these American heroes, one of which you see before us today,” McConnell said, referring to Hughes’ flag-draped coffin.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher also attended the funeral.
The graveside service at Holy Name of Mary Cemetery, near the rural church, was filled with military tradition, including a 21-gun salute, the playing of ‘Taps’, and a fly-over by three military helicopters.
The flag that had draped Hughes’ coffin was presented to his widow by Storm.
Afterward, Storm said the Kentucky guardsmen in Iraq are involved in “a cause greater than one’s self.
“These soldiers are committed to doing a good, sound job over there because it brings hope and opportunity to free people all around the world,” he said.
Hughes graduated from Marion County High School and was 17 when he joined the Guard in 2001. He was assigned to Bravo Battery 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery unit. His unit deployed to Iraq in January.
On the same weekend that Hughes died, three other Kentucky guardsmen from another unit were wounded in a lengthy gun battle with Iraqi insurgents. Twenty-seven guerrillas were killed and six others were wounded in the firefight.
About 1,160 Kentucky Guard soldiers are now deployed in Iraq — the largest contingent since the war began more than two years ago.
On Monday, 170 soldiers from two other Kentucky Guard units were shipping out for eventual deployment to Iraq, guard officials said.
— Associated Press