MORGANTOWN, KY, USA U.S. Army SPC, 617TH MILITARY POLICE COMPANY, RICHMOND, KY BAGHDAD, IRAQ 06/14/2005
A Kentucky Guardsman was killed in Iraq this week during a rocket-propelled grenade attack, the National Guard said Thursday.
Specialist 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, Brigadier General Norman Arflack said.
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.
“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.
Specialist Melissa Stewart, his sister, and Specialist 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.
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.”
Captain 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.
Specialist 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.”