Sgt. Buddy James Hughie of Poteau, Oklahoma was killed in Afghanistan on February 19, 2007, 10 years ago this week. Hughie was 25 years old and died during a mission to save a teenage boy. CNN’s Jake Tapper paid tribute to Hughie with a series of tweets on February 17.
Hughie was survived by his wife, Alexis; his son, Cooper Michael Hughie; his brother Dennis, his sister Jennifer Clairborn; and his mother, Julie Hicks.
Here is a look at Hughie’s life and how he died a hero.
1. Hughie Died During a Mission to Save a Teenage Boy in Kamdeshm Afghanistan
According to his FindAGrave.com obituary, Hughie was a member of the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry, Oklahoma Army National Guard. His unit was assigned to a joint mission with the Afghan National Army and the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division in Nuristan Province. The units were based at COP Keating.
Hughie died during a mission to save a kidnapped teenage boy. After the boy was found, Hughie and the Afghan troops he was with were ambushed by the Taliban. When two Afghan troops were shot, Hughie, a medic, heroically ran back to help them. But he was shot himself.
Tapper wrote that Lieutenant Vic Johnson ran back to find Hughie. Unfortunately, by the time he reached Hughie, the young boy was gone.
Hughie’s wound was under his armor and Johnson couldn’t find it. So he tried to help one of the Afghan soldiers and called for a medic. No one responded, so Johnson had to rush back to their trucks. Johnson and Specialist Gil Montanez ran back to Hughie and the Afghan soldier, Adel, while being fired upon. Montanez found Hughie’s wound, which was right in his heart.
“Montanez realized that when he’d reached for his medic bag to save Adel, Buddy had exposed himself,” Tapper wrote.
Eventually, American air forces chased off the insurgents. Adel later died.
2. Hughie Didn’t Need to Go Back to Afghanistan, Since He Already Served a Tour in 2002-2003
Hughie volunteered to go back to Afghanistan in 2006. He didn’t have to go back because he was already deployed there in 2002 and 2003 with a South Carolina engineer unit.
“Sgt. Buddy Hughie was a great American,” Lt. Col. Bobby Yandell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry, said in a statement at the time of Hughie’s death. “Sgt. Hughie was one of those soldiers that you did not have to worry about; he always did the right thing. We mourn his loss, but celebrate the life of a great soldier.”
3. Hughie’s Son Cooper Was Born 3 Months Before His Father’s Death
Hughie left behind his wife, Alexis, and his newborn baby, Cooper, who just turned 10 years old. His family lived in South Carolina with her parents. Alexis was 23 at the time of her husband’s death.
Alexis’ father, Michael Callegan, wrote a blog post about the night two soldiers came to his home to tell them that his son-in-law was killed in Afghanistan. Callegan wrote:
My 23yr old daughter’s friend screamed up the stairs “There’s two men at the front door with military uniforms on.” My heart sank. My wife and I ran down the stairs to see two soldiers in dress uniform standing at the front door.
My daughter was already screaming “NO NO NO NO THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING THERE HAS GOT TO BE A MISTAKE”
As the Army guys came in they did just like it happen on TV. “On behalf of the United States Army, we regret to inform you that your husband Sgt Buddy James Hughie has been killed in action.” It was difficult to hear anything else they said. I was just numb with pain, both for my daughter but also for their three month old son, Cooper.
It’s been just over two weeks now and I can still see and hear Alexis just sobbing NO NO NO I LOVED HIM SO MUCH, WHAT IS COOPER GOING TO DO HIS DADDY IS DEAD?.
Although we know that God is a Sovereign God and that He was not taken aback by this tragic event we still morn the loss of our Buddy.
In 2012, Collegan wrote another blog post on the fifth anniversary of Hughie’s death. On that day, they held a wreath-laying ceremony in Hughie’s honor.
4. Hughie Helped Save Lives in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina
After his first tour of duty in Afghanistan, Hughie was called to action at home. He served 45 days in New Orleans, helping people after the devastating Hurricane Katrina.
“This was a soldier who cared more about others than he did himself,” Brigadier General Myles L. Deering, the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade, told the Fallen Heroes Project. “He didn’t have to be in Afghanistan, he didn’t have to serve those 45 days in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. He was there because he believed in what he was doing. More importantly, he backed those beliefs by action.”
“He faced an enemy with courage and bravery and left a legacy of a true patriot,” Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins told the Fallen Heroes Project.
5. An Overpass in Oklahoma Is Named in Hughie’s Honor
Hughie’s sacrifices are still remembered by those who loved him. Oklahoma also honored his service with the “Sgt. Buddy Hughie Memorial Overpass,” notes NewsOK.com.
Hughie was also honored by Oklahoma’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during a 2013 ceremony, reports KRMG.
According to the Tulsa World, Hughie was one of 18 soldiers from Oklahoma killed in action in 2007.