A Loss on the Other Side of the World Hits Home

For those of you who follow my blog, you’re used to seeing topics regarding imagery and software and how their integration assists federal agencies, AEC firms and first responders.  Today I am writing about something far more important – the loss of a good man.  On May 18, 2010, Col. John McHugh was killed when a vehicle laden with 1400 pounds of explosives detonated near his convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan.  18 others were also killed in this attack.  There are many details of this devastating event outlined in various news articles.  I’m not going to recount these events.   I’d like to focus on my memories of John, his family and the positive legacy he leaves behind.

Col. John McHughJohn was the youngest of the four McHugh kids.  I came to know the McHugh family through his older brother Jim, who was my basketball coach in 7th and 8th grade.  On rainy Sunday’s Jim, John and Frank (the eldest of the McHugh boys) would gather at the Caldwell High School gym and organize pick-up basketball games.  Although John was more comfortable on the soccer fields, he certainly held his own on the hardwood.  The one thing that you could count on with all of the McHugh’s was a warm smile and a helping hand.  Whether it be a ride home from the practice fields, volunteering time to help coach the local little league or, as I’ve read in some other blogs, a shoulder to lean on in difficult times.

I lost touch with the McHugh’s after graduation.  I knew that John had the honor of being accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The hometown paper had an occasional article on John’s accomplishments that my folks would forward on.  Years had passed since updates of John had made its way to me.  And then my dad called with the news.  Not only did the McHugh family lose a son and a brother, but they lost a husband, father and grandfather.  I was not aware that, like me, John had 5 children – his youngest boy just a year older than my youngest son.  I also did not know that one of his sons had followed in his father’s footsteps and was proudly serving our country in the armed services.  This young man is now escorting his father home.

Many people talk of the legacy that one man leaves behind.  I was fortunate enough to know John in his younger days and have fond memories simpler times of pick-up games and high school friendships.  I was not surprised to read notes from folks around the world, from Kansas to Germany to Iraq, that have been touched by John and his family.  It was also very comforting to know that John’s faith was strong.  John’s legacy will be one of kindness, warmth, strength and leadership.  I’m confident that each of these qualities, and more, are a part of his children and grandchild and that we will have the opportunity to see a little bit of John in each of them.

Jim Helou