MIDDLEBURG, FL, USA U.S. Marines MSGT, CO A, 2D RECON BN, (RCT-3, 2D MEB FWD) CAMP LEJEUNE, NC IVO FOB FIDDLERS GREEN, AFGHANISTAN 07/08/2009
John Eric Hayes was 36 years old when he died while supporting combat operations in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. Hayes graduated from Middleburg High School, where he met his future wife Shannon. John and Shannon Hayes were high school sweethearts. They moved to North Carolina shortly after John enlisted in the Marine Corps. The couple was married for 16 years and had three children, two daughters, and a son.
John was a devoted family man, known for spending many quality hours with his children like exploring in the woods or sitting on the floor coloring with them. At night, he and Shannon would sit on the porch and talk for hours. Shannon has said, “This man was put on the earth for me.”
John was a member of the ROTC at Middleburg High School in Middleburg, Florida. He was in the delayed entry program to join the Marines and enlisted in July 1991 – one month after graduation.
He was the operations chief for his company and was deployed to Afghanistan in April. His previous deployments included Kosovo and Albania in 1998, Kuwait in 1991 and Iraq in 2003 and 2007.
John’s awards include two Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medals, two Combat Action Ribbons, a Joint Meritorious Unit Award, a Navy Unit Commendation, two Navy Meritorious Unit Citations, five Marine Corps Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, a Southwest Asia Service Medal, two Kosovo Campaign medals, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Armed Forces Service Medal, two Humanitarian Service Medals, six Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, a Marine Security Guard Ribbon, two NATO Medals, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
Betsy Kahmer remembers the first time she met her daughter’s high school sweetheart. “I just thought he was a nice kid, but as time went on I realized what a nice young man he was,” she said. Within a few years, her daughter married John Eric Hayes, a military man. “Every mother’s dream is for her daughter to marry somebody like John,” said Kahmer. “He’s loving and good and everything a mother would want their daughter to have,” she said, “and I just can’t believe he’s not going to be here anymore.”
Kahmer says it does help her to know Hayes died doing what he loved. “If he had to pick his way of dying, he’d pick this way because this is what he believed in.