Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Michael A Hughes

Winlock, Washington

February 10, 2014

Age Civilian   Unit/Location
38 Contractor  

Corrections Officer

 Killed by suicide bomber in Afghanistan while training forces on prison operations and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Welcoming Home Our Hero, Click photo below:

Welcoming Home Our Hero Michael A Hughes - Photos by Q Madp

February 17, 2014

For Some Memorial Service Snapshots, Click photo below:

 Memorial Service for Michael A Hughes - Photos by Q Madp

February 22, 2014

From The Chronicle chrononline.com 02/19/14:

Michael A. Hughes was born April 16, 1975 in Missoula, Mont. He and one of the other three passengers in their vehicle were killed by a terrorist bomber outside of Pol-e-Charkhi, the prison where he worked, near Kabul Afghanistan on Feb. 10, 2014. Mike came into the world in a hurry, premature and weighing three pounds eleven ounces. It must have been all heart, which he shared with so many throughout his life. He grew up living in different places which gave him an excellent education making friends wherever he was. He attended school in Elko, Nev., Highwood, Mont., Great Falls, Mont. and Winlock, Wash. where he graduated from high school. His school, work and poker buddies had become a ‘band of brothers,’ who have stayed in close touch with each other.
Mike was very comical, fun, mischievous and sometimes serious. He was active in sports, especially football. He went to Boys State including a congratulation letter from President Bill Clinton and ran for mayor of Winlock, all by the age of 18. He spent most school summers with his dad at job locations in Elko and Carson City, Nev. and Riverton, Wyo. After graduation, he moved to Joliet, Mont. to share his life with his dad and family there. While at Joliet he worked at Timberweld Manufacturing in Columbus. He enjoyed working with wood products and was well liked by his supervisor Sam Blaylock. When tragedy struck one of his friends in Winlock, he immediately returned to help his friend with recovery and rehab.
It seems Mike found his calling when he became employed at McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington until it was closed. He worked his way up through the ranks to a position where he was in charge of one of the units. He was also a lead negotiator who was quite successful keeping good communication with both prisoners and staff. While there he also received the Washington State Officer of the year award. When the state decided to close the prison Mike stayed to the end, passing up transfers to potentially good positions. When the job ended he decided to become part of a Task Force, working for DynCorp as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan. He worked as an advisor and trainer to help toward the goal of the Afghans taking over the guard duties at their prisons. He taught negotiations, hand-to-hand combat, and procedures with the aid of Afghan interpreters. He enjoyed the challenge and successes achieved while living in this destitute environment. His mission appeared close to completion. He was excitedly making plans for marriage, buying property and starting a business when his life was abruptly ended by the attack on the convoy vehicles near the prison. 
Mike is survived by his mother, Linda Mundale; his sister Patricia Hughes; his fiancée Holly Orbino; and her two daughters, Breanna and Mariah all from Nevada; his dad, Murray ‘Mike’ Hughes and family; his brother, Dan and family, all of Montana; and his sisters, Kathy and Kris and their families of Washington. He will be fondly remembered by a multitude of friends throughout the world. He was preceded in death by his step-father, Bill Tabacco.
Memorials should be given to the charity of your choice.
Funeral Service at Winlock Middle School 2:00 p.m. Feb. 22, 2014.
Arrangements by Cattermole Funeral Home.

From The Daily News Online tdn.com 02/10/14:

Civilian contractor from Winlock killed in explosion in Afghanistan
February 10, 2014 11:00 pm • By Andre Stepankowsky
Mike Hughes, who grew up in Winlock and was due to get married this weekend, died Monday in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan.

Hughes was one of two civilian contractors who died in the explosion just outside the Pul-i-Charkhi prison in east Kabul, the Afghan capital.

CBS News reported that two employees and nearby civilians perished when one of two NATO vehicles leaving the prison was slammed into by another car, which exploded.

Hezbi Islami, the second largest Islamic militant group in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to CBS.

Hughes’ death was confirmed Monday night by friends, who said he’d been working for DynCorp. International, advising Afghani jailers on how to run prisons. He’d been working in Afghanistan several years after working for about a decade at the McNeil Island Corrections Center in Washington.

The 1993 Winlock High School grad was due to return to the U.S. on Wednesday and marry Holly Orbino, a fellow Winlock grad, said Ferdinand Orbino of Seattle, a longtime friend of Hughes and brother of his fiancée.

“She’s a wreck,” Orbino said of his sister, who’d known Hughes since high school but had become engaged to him about a year ago.

Hughes, 38, “was the class clown” at Winlock High School, recalled Charrie LaFarr, a longtime friend and Winlock resident. “He was the one who made everyone laugh. Everyone is commenting on Facebook about that.”

Partly as a gag, partly because he truly was upset at the governance of Winlock, Hughes ran for mayor at age 18.

“He was a good kid. Really solid. He never caused problems. He was one of those kids that was always there, very reliable,” recalled Mike Voie, Winlock’s football coach.

Orbino and longtime friend Jim Kunz, now of Olympia, said Hughes had tried several jobs after high school but really took to corrections work.

Working overseas was lucrative, and Hughes' "goal was to have a house and live comfortably and not worry about his finances," Kunz said. After one more job in Afghanistan, he was planning to return to the U.S. for good in November, Kunz said.

Orbino, though, had served in the military in the Iraq conflict and had warned his friend about the dangers there before Hughes signed on with DynCorp.

“I tried to talk him out of it,” Orbino said. “I tried to emphasize the risks.”

Hughes and Holly Orbino were supposed to wed in a quiet ceremony in Las Vegas, where she lives. It was to be a first marriage for both of them.

Hughes’ sister Trish Hughes and mother, Linda Mundale, also live in Las Vegas, where Mundale moved after retiring about two years ago as a special education teacher in the Winlock School District.

Hughes also has a brother, Danny Hughes of Montana, and two half-sisters. He leaves no children.

Funeral services are pending.

From KOMO News komonews.com 02/11/14:

Winlock man killed In Afghanistan bombing
By Elisa Jaffe and news services Published: Feb 11, 2014 at 7:41 PM PST Last Updated: Feb 12, 2014 at 9:03 AM PST
TUMWATER, Wash. -- Mike Hughes had one more day of work in Afghanistan before heading back to the U.S. for his Valentine's weekend wedding. But on Monday a suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy in Kabul, killing Hughes and another foreign civilian contractor. An Islamic militant group is claiming responsibility for the blast.

His sisters live in Thurston County and say their brother always downplayed the risks of his job with DynCorp. International. 

"This was gonna be his last tour," said Kristine Zitney who was teaching class when she received a text from her mother that her brother had been killed. 

Hughes, who grew up in Winlock, Wash., had worked as a corrections officer at McNeil Island. He took a lucrative job training Afghanis on how to reform their prison system. 

"At first it seemed like a good opportunity but when he got there he really fell in love with the people, he fell in love with the work. And he told me he thought that he could really change the world by being over there," Zitney said.

Hughes' oldest sister, Kathleen Alexander, said reforming the prison system had become her brother's passion. He was developing a curriculum that would be used throughout the system to advise Afghani jailers on how to run a humane prison. 

Alexander said her brother had a translator follow him everywhere but didn't need one to understand what the inmates felt toward him. She said Hughes told her that when he would go through the biggest prison in Kabul.

"He'd walk by the cells and the prisoners would put their arms up, their hands up to their hearts out of respect for him," she said.

Hughes was one of five children. Alexander and Zitney describe him as serious but with a great sense of humor. When he was 18, he didn't approve of Winlock's leadership and tossed his name into the race for mayor. The 38-year old had planned to marry fellow Winlock High School graduate Holly Orbino and set up home in Las Vegas. 

Zitney says his last email to his fiance read "My heart and soul are already there. My body will soon follow."

He is now being flown to Dover, Delaware for an autopsy and will be buried in his hometown of Winlock.

From KING 5 TV king5.com 02/11/14:

Western Washington man killed in suicide car bomb in Afghanistan
by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News
Posted on February 11, 2014 at 11:50 PM
Family members say Winlock native Michael Hughes was one of two civilian contractors killed in a suicide car bomb on Monday in Afghanistan. It happened on the night before he was set to fly home.
The 38-year-old went to work in Kabul, Afghanistan back in 2010. He is a former corrections officer at McNeil Island and was hired to train Afghans to run and reform their own prisons.
"At first it was going to be for a year, and we're like okay, let's get through the year, and then he went back again and again," said his sister, Kathleen Alexander. "He felt like his work was very worthwhile and very important."
Family members say Hughes really believed in what he was doing.
"It was his biggest success, he told me he never felt like anything was more important than what he was doing over there," said Kristine Zitny, another of Hughes' sisters.
The women were emotional as they spoke to KING 5 from Zitny's home in Tumwater. They say this is something they'd always feared would happen, with their brother working in Afghanistan.
Making their loss even more difficult is the timing of his death.
"He was supposed to get on a plane that night," said Zitny. "He was going to be getting married."
Hughes was set to marry his fiance on Valentine's Day weekend in Las Vegas, where his fiance currently lives and Hughes planned to move once his work in Afghanistan was finished.
"It's like he was so close to his dream and it was just taken," said Zitny. 
Their only comfort, right now, are the happy memories they shared with their brother. The sisters recalled how he decided to run for mayor of his small hometown of Winlock when he was a senior in high school, because he wasn't happy with the current city leadership.
They laughed when remembering the station wagon he bought for $75.
In those memories, the family says his spirit will be kept alive. They hope his passion for his work will be kept alive by those who survived Monday's attack.
"He was taken too young, and I just hope his work can be carried on, with the people he leaves behind," said Alexander. "I think he originally went over there as an adventure, but when he got there, he fell in love with the Afghanistan people, and he really wanted to change the world, and I really felt like he thought he could."
Funeral arrangements have not yet been set, but the family says Hughes will be buried in Winlock. They also say he was one of two civilian contractors killed during Monday's suicide car bomb in Kabul.

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