Daily photo by John Godbey|
Brothers Adam, left, and John Hughes returned home to Decatur earlier this month after completing tours of duty in Iraq.
Brothers return home from war
Decatur pair completes 3rd tour of duty in Middle East
By Ronnie Thomas
Cpl. John Hughes said he joined the Marines because he had a bad attitude.
“I was being a basic teenager, trying to rebel all the time and getting a little unruly. My father was a Marine during Vietnam,” he said. “I felt I needed some discipline.”
Cpl. Adam Hughes’ reason for signing up did not require such self-analysis.
“I had to look after my little brother,” he said.
They joined the Marines on the buddy plan, but that only guaranteed they would stay together through boot camp. Both were in communications and expected to be separated later.
They left for training at Parris Island, S.C., in April 2003. Adam was 22, John 18, and both Decatur High School graduates. They would age fast. Ahead were a tour of Afghanistan and two tours of Iraq.
Debbie Hughes aged considerably, too, after her daughter, Heidi, now 17, told her what her brother John had done.
Adam remembers it well.
“I was in my room playing a game on our PlayStation. I thought World War III had broken out in the living room,” he said. “I heard loud talk. I thought, ‘Well, I’m glad it’s not me this time.’ Then I heard a door slam and a car leaving the driveway, slinging rocks.”
All their mother could think to do to ease her frustrations was to drive.
Mom ‘cried for two days’
“I cried for two days,” she said. “I asked God what I had done wrong.”
Her husband, Mike Hughes, died in 1999. Another of his sons, Michael Jason Hughes, 33, of Somerville, a half brother to John and Adam, was in the Army in Iraq and helped corner Uday and Qusay Hussein on July 22, 2003.
“Mike did not want his sons in the military because of the way he was treated when he came home,” she said.
John joined March 7, 2003, and Adam followed him three weeks later. Members of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, they arrived in Afghanis-tan at Bagram Air Field that Nov. 22 for a six-month stint and separated for the first time.
John remained at Bagram and Adam moved to Asadabad on the Konar River near the Pakastani border.
“Everything had pretty much settled down in Afghanistan by the time we arrived and our duty there was fairly routine,” Adam said.
They regrouped at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and shipped out to Iraq. For the better part of six months, from March to September 2005, they spent their time on separate ships, patrolling and providing security from the Mediterranean Sea to the Kuwaiti coast.
“We weren’t able to contact each other that much,” John said. “The Internet was slow and whenever it was working, there was a long line. We exchanged a couple of letters.”
On furlough before their second tour, Adam married his wife, Tara, on June 2.
“John and I returned to Iraq on July 25. There’s nothing worse than being a newlywed in Iraq,” Adam said. “I told Tara if she wrecked my pickup, I was going to break both her legs.”
The brothers saw each other when they first got back to the war-torn country but from early August to late November 2006, they did not meet.
“I was at a forward operating base in Karmah, 20 miles north of our headquarters in Fallugia, and John was in Saqlawiyah, 27 miles to the northwest,” said Adam, who turns 26 Friday. “We’d send messages from buddies traveling back and forth.”
In early December, John, now 22, transferred to Karmah to help with security because of so many casualties.
“We met that night but they pushed Adam to an outpost about five miles away,” John said. “We saw each other again in about two weeks when he came in. After we turned Karmah over to the Army, I returned to Saqlawiyah and Adam went to Fallugia for patrolling missions. We saw each other the next time Feb. 10, 2007, in Fallugia to prepare transitioning from Iraq to the U.S.”
Adam arrived home March 7 and John followed two days later. They offered their perspectives of Iraq.
“Some Iraqis want us there, some do not,” Adam said. “I believe that most could get along by themselves if they would stand up to the insurgents. But they’re afraid of them. In some ways, you can’t blame them. The doors to many of the houses are no more than curtains or bedsheets. There’s little security for them.”
John said the country has “calmed down a lot, but I don’t think (Iraqis) are going to take the extra step to stand up for themselves.”
Debbie Hughes said she hopes Uncle Sam never needs her sons again.
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