Big Spring Soldier Earns Award

By:  Hema Mullur
NewsWest 9

It's the fourth highest combat award of the U.S. armed forces, and it wasn't won easily.
On a January day in Iraq, Lt. Col. Stephen Hughes and his team went to the aid of their fellow soldiers, not knowing what lay ahead.

"In the early stages of the battle we had no idea what the size of the battle was," Hughes remembered.  "It was a surprise to everybody. We thought it would be over with in a very short period of time.  We saw an apache helicopter crash, it was shot down.  And immediately we diverted over to the crash site to prevent it from being overrun by the insurgents."

It wasn't until the next morning they truly knew what they had been up against.

"The insurgents we were fighting were close to 800 in strength," he said.  "We found about 250 dead on the battlefield, and we took another 400 detainees."

To this 26 year veteran, it was all in a day's work.   Work that wouldn't be possible without help.

"One of the battalions was actually operating in another area, because we were spread so thin," said Hughes.  "But we were able to get that battalion back, conduct a lot more in the way of offensive operations, and really make a lot of progress since the surge was in place around the June timeframe."

Born and raised in Big Spring...

"I'll take the opportunity to say hello to Uncle Charles and Aunt Shirley, Aunt Wanda, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Marilyn."

Hughes is a Texan at heart.

"Go Cowboys, go Longhorns, go Aggies.   That helps us stay sane over here," Hughes said.

Though he keeps up with his favorite teams and his family back home, the mind of a soldier is never far away from his mission.   And though that mission may be dangerous, Hughes has no regrets.

"No regrets whatsoever.  I've traveled a lot of places, lived a lot of places around the world.  Nobody wants a war," said Hughes.  "But we're well trained for what we do here, we have a lot of confidence in what we're doing.  We have taken casualties, we've had some tragedy, but overall we're doing very, very well.  Morale is very high, I think, given what we've been through."