Death at the front door: Part I

It had been one of those Mondays so my wife and I went up to bed around nine that night. 

Our daughter and son-in-law had moved back in with us the previous May when his National Guard unit was activated to deploy to Afghanistan.  They had married a little over a year before and moved to Buddy’s small home town of Poteau, Oklahoma so Alexis could get to know his family before he deployed.  It was always in the plans for her to stay with us while he was gone.

Our evening had been pretty uneventful.  Except that Lex mentioned (around six) that she hadn’t heard from Buddy yet and was wondering what was going on.  He would usually call her ever day.   On this particular day he was supposed to call her to let her know which of the pictures he liked best. 

You see Buddy had come home for two weeks leave in November ’06 for the birth of their son Cooper.  He was home a mere two days before his birth.  It’s important to understand that Buddy had never met his father and was determined to be the daddy to his boy that he never had.  He did everything with baby Cooper while he was home.  The two of them were literally inseperable.  One of my favorite memories of him and infant Cooper is, while holding his son, looking into his pretty new born pink skinned face and saying “you are the most beautiful thing in the whole world” then  ever so gently kissing him on his little cheek. 

Back to the pictures… Lex had taken little Cooper down to have his three month old protraits taken (on Saturday) and had emailed them to Buddy and when he called her on Sunday he told her how much Cooper  had changed, how beautiful he was, how much he missed them and couldn’t wait to be home in three months.  He would let her know which ones he liked best the next day (Monday) when he called.

So, any way, we said good night to Lex and her friend Lee as we went off to bed.

It was Monday, February 19th, 2007 at 9:40pm when Lee screemed up the stairs, “Mrs. C, there’s a couple of guys at the front door in green uniforms!!

My wife and I instantly looked at each other and knew this was bad.  Very bad.   We ran down the stairs and there, standing outside of our (all glass) front door were two men in Army dress green uniforms holding a folder in their hands.

Alexis was just frozen about eight feet from the door in the hallway, slightly bent at the waist, clutching her hands to her chest and already saying, no no no no no.  My wife let them in the door and they asked, “Mrs.  Alexis Hughie?”  Yes, my wife responded for her.  Then it came…”On behalf of the United States Army we regret to inform you that your husband, Sergant Buddy James Hughie, has been killed in action.”  “NO, NO, NO, NO IT CAN’T BE TRUE.  IT’S GOT TO BE A MISTAKE.  I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.  WHAT IS COOPER GOING TO DO?  HE DOESN’T HAVE A DADDY ANY MORE!!”  She was just sobbing so hard as she crumpled into a pile of human flesh right there in our foyer.   For the first time in my life I was completely powerless to protect her from unbearable pain and heartache.   Her daddy just had to stand there and let it all unfold.  Her gut wrenching screams and moans haunt me to this day.  My wife immediately called our older daughter who literally lives just around the corner.  In less than two minutes she swooped in the front door and they both wrapped their arms around each other, sobbing on the floor.

I called my pastor and said “Two army guys are here and just told us that Buddy has been killed in action.”  He was at our front door in less than ten minutes.  I was just numb.   It wasn’t long before our home was full of people.  Alexis’ two best friends (Lee & Amy) were now there with her taking turns holding her, rocking her in their arms.

I was out on the front porch now speaking with my pastor and one of the elders of our church… telling them that I should have prayed for him more.  Pastor assurred me that although things seem dark now that God was not surprised by these events, for me not to beat myself up, that Alexis needs me now.

I just can’t write any more now….

7 Responses to Death at the front door: Part I

  1. DM says:

    I don’t hardly ever cry…and I am crying right now…I’m so sorry for all of you….

  2. I am amazed. I always thought that Buddy was your SON. You always spoke of him so proudly, like a father would of his very own child. When I had looked him up online, seen all of his accomplishments, the valor he displayed right up until the last moment – he seemed like an incredible testament to your love for your children.

    I know now, I guess, that you aren’t his natural father – but it’s clear to me that you are as much a father as someone could be.

    Cooper is lucky to grow up in a house where his father’s memory is cherished. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  3. mssc54 says:

    DM; that’s exactly why I had to stop writing. Thank you.

    Hayden; I think that Buddy and I had adopted each other in our hearts. I never had a son nor he a father. Additionally, we worked side by side in my business for nearly a year. We talked about everything. I know you Googled him so you know what a remarkalbe young man he truly was. Thank you.

  4. Lindsey says:

    I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, Buddy was a truly honorable man and there aren’t many men like that in the world. Cooper is lucky to have you to tell him about his daddy and what a great man his daddy was, and it is all just so heartbreaking… So many kids have awful parents, and Cooper lost his wonderful dad.

    But God is in all of this, somewhere, loving you. Remember that.

  5. moriahjoy says:

    I have tears streaming down my face.
    I am so deeply grieved.

  6. […] I’ve spent the last half hour alternating between quietly crying and sobbing, reading this […]

  7. mssc54 says:

    Reblogged this on Mssc54’s Weblog and commented:

    Seven and a half years later and I can still feel this.

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