GV | ONLY IN NEW JERSEY
WITH STEVE ADUBATO
GV | ONLY IN NEW JERSEY
Steve Adubato, PhD., is an Emmy Award–winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJTV (PBS) who regularly appears on the Today show, Fox 5 in
New York and WOR 710 and other New York-based radio stations. His newest book, You Are the Brand, examines the brand strategies of more than 30
individuals and companies. For more information log on to stand-deliver.com. Find Steve on Facebook at Facebook.com/SteveAdubatoPHD. PH
IT’S EASY TO WHINE ABOUT LIFE’S little
annoyances. Then you hear a story that
puts things in their proper perspective.
This is one of those stories.
John McHugh was an Army colonel,
a loving husband, the proud father of
five, a grandfather, son and brother. On May 18, 2010, McHugh was
killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. The West Caldwell native was 46. He also served in Iraq
during Operation Desert Storm.
More than 1,000 people attended
McHugh’s memorial service at St.
Aloysius Church in Caldwell. His older brother, Jim, delivered the eulogy
for the fallen hero and has dedicated
much of his time to keeping John’s
memory alive. Currently, he is working with the Honor and Remember
Foundation to get government approval for an Honor and Remember
flag to be presented to families that
have lost a loved one in battle. Meanwhile, John’s eldest daughter, Kelly,
a graduate of Kansas State University, is collecting stories from family
members for a book about her father.
The book will include interviews
with McHugh’s classmates and soccer teammates at West Point, where
he still holds the record for the most
saves by a goaltender.
I spoke with Jim McHugh about his
hero brother, one of the highest ranking
U.S. officers to die in Afghanistan.
Do you know the details of John’s
final day? John was stationed out of
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the battle
command and prep center. He made
numerous trips to Afghanistan to ob-
serve conditions on the ground so the
training in the U. S. could be adjusted
as necessary. In May 2010, he ar-
rived in Kabul. Typically, he would fly
from Kabul airport to headquarters
at Bagram Airfield. However, a couple
of days before his arrival, the Bagram
airfields were bombed and were no lon-
ger accessible. Therefore, John and his
companions had to convoy from the Ka-
bul airport. As they were headed to the
base, a suicide bomber saw the convoy,
drove up next to them and set off about
2,000 pounds of explosives. My brother
and four other U.S. soldiers were killed,
along with a Canadian military officer
and 12 Afghan civilians.
Why is it so important to continue to
tell John’s story? As the United States
is involved in a conflict that spans over
10 or 12 years, we become desensitized
to the headlines. We read a story and
hear that a couple servicemen were
killed and think, that’s a shame, but
we really don’t stop and think about
what is behind that story. It is a
real family.... His son Michael,
also in the Army, was deployed
in Baghdad at the time of his fa-
ther’s passing. So I want people
to remember there is a real family
behind these headlines.
What should we know about
your brother? John was really
steeped in three things. Family—
family came first in everything.
Faith—he had a tremendous faith
in God. And he loved the United
States of America.
How do families find help after
such a loss? There are organiza-
tions out there that fight every day
to not forget the fallen. American
Gold Star Mothers [goldstar-
moms.com] is just one of them that
provides resources and support
services. They sponsor a fund-raiser
in September every year, called the
NJ Run for the Fallen, where they
have servicemen from each branch
of the service run from Cape May to the
Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial at the PNC
Bank Arts Center.
Tell us about your work with the
Honor and Remember project. Our
goal is to get the Honor and Remember flag into the hands of every family
who has ever lost a family member in
any battle or war. Right now, whenever
I learn of someone in my area that has
lost a loved one in war, I personally
present a flag to that family on behalf of
the McHugh family. ■
McHUGH FAMILY POR TRAIT: John McHugh
surrounded by his loved ones. Back row,
from left: Angela (son Michael’s wife),
Michael, and John’s daughters Kristen
and Kelly. Front row: daughter Maggie, wife
Connie, John and son David. In front is the
family dog, Cobie.
Honoring a Fallen Hero
A family strives to keep their loved one’s memory alive.