LEBANON, KY, USA U.S. Army SGT, BATTERY B, 1ST BATTALION, 623D FIELD ARTILLERY, CAMPBELLSVILLE KY BAGHDAD, IRAQ 03/19/2005
Sergeant 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 General 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.
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. Captain 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.
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.”
Hughes friend Daniel 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.”