14 August 2013
The Hughes legacy
The Hughes family’s military service stretches all the way back to Ensign William Hughes, who fought in the Revolutionary War as part of the Fluvanna militia. It was this man also who established the Hughes family in Fluvanna: In 1766 he purchased the farm, Rosedale, that is home to the Hughes family to this very day.
Between the colonies-turned-states disagreements remained, patched over with compromises made for the greater good: unity in the face of Great Britain. But over time those smoldering issues burst into full flame. And when they did, Ensign William Hughes’s grandson, Thomas Anderson Hughes, marched off to the Civil War. So did his son, Tucker Eldridge Hughes, who was only 15 at the start of the war.
When America went to war again, this time in 1898 with Spain, Ensign William Hughes’s great-grandson, Robert Anderson Hughes, went with her. At the same time, his brother, John Anderson Hughes, defended American interests in the Philippine-American War. A decade later, he fought in the Mexican Border Campaign, and ultimately in World War I.
Current Fluvannian William “Bill” Foster Hughes remembers this man quite clearly, for John Anderson Hughes was his grandfather. “He was known as ‘Captain John’ around here,” Bill recalled. “He was a big Fluvanna figure – the chairman of the Board of Supervisors.”
The peace proclaimed at the end of World War I lasted less than a generation, and when World War II arose it was Captain John’s sons, John Anderson Hughes, Jr. and James Robert Hughes, who went off to fight. Bill can remember his father, John Anderson Hughes, Jr., mention “in passing” the time, called D-Day, when he parachuted in darkness behind enemy lines into Normandy.
And again, when peace returned, Hugheses followed service to country with service to county. James Robert Hughes, no longer at war, eventually became sheriff of Fluvanna County.
What compelled seven generations of Hugheses to fight for their country? “We were raised to respect this great country of ours,” Bill reflected, “taught that freedom isn’t free, that the profession of arms is an honorable profession, and service to the country is something that’s respected. I think the lineage speaks for itself.”
Graduating from West Point, Bill was a member of the “famed class of 1966,” so called because the Vietnam War took more lives from this class than any other. “All four years I was at West Point the Vietnam War was going on, a cloud hanging over our heads,” Bill said. “We were burying people we knew in the West Point cemetery, people who were fellow cadets last year or the year before. I was a pallbearer. It was a very real thing to us.”
In an attempt to limit the number of lost West Pointers, the academy initially only allowed 98 graduates from the class of 1966 to go to Vietnam. Bill volunteered. “That is one of the things I am most proud of,” he reflected.
Eventually Bill and his wife, Susan, had three children: Carolyn, John, and Jennifer. They were very proud indeed when all three elected to go to West Point. “They have to want to do that on their own,” Bill said. “You can’t force that on somebody.” And so the seventh generation of Hughes military service began.
Number one in the class of 1966, John Hughes became a physician specializing in emergency medicine. He is now on his fourth deployment, serving overseas in Afghanistan. Jennifer Hughes ran a logistical base in Djibouti, supporting Iraqi operations. And Fluvanna resident Carolyn Hughes Copenhaver served as a military intelligence officer in Haiti peacekeeping operations.
Carolyn now lives in Kents Store at Rosedale, her family’s ancestral farm, with her daughter, Meghan, a rising junior at Fluvanna County High School. Will Meghan continue the family legacy of military service? “I am strongly considering it,” she said. “I know it’s a responsibility of mine to serve my country, and to represent my family. It would only be right to do so.”
Back in April, something in the West Point newsletter caught Carolyn’s eye. A major bank was looking to honor a military family as part of a new marketing campaign. Families with documented military history were encouraged to apply. “They weren’t looking for a famous family with generals who had written books,” Carolyn explained. “They wanted a humble representation of what an American military family was about.”
The family selected for the campaign would be honored in a professionally produced television ad that would run nationally. After two interviews and a visit to the family’s almost 250-year-old farm, Carolyn and her family discovered that they had been chosen.
Then Hollywood descended upon Fluvanna. Production staff, hair and make-up stylists, and directors galore turned Rosedale into an ad set. They arranged all the family’s memorabilia in one room, where they would shoot the interviews. They set up and catered a family reunion. “They watched us have a party and put the whole thing on film,” Carolyn said with a laugh. On interview day they spent hours asking questions and shooting footage that would ultimately become a three-minute video and, perhaps more exciting, a 60-second ad that would run nationally. And sure enough, on July 16, the ad ran twice during the 2013 Major League Baseball All Star Game.
Despite their joy, the Hughes family remains modest. “Our family is but a representative of all those families out there that have served and sacrificed for this great country of ours,” said Bill with dignity.
An expression of thanks
Despite the plethora of family artifacts, the Hugheses felt the lack of any photograph or image of Ensign William Hughes, the Revolutionary War soldier who established the family at Rosedale so many years ago.
As an expression of thanks, the production company commissioned its art director to create an authentic rendition of the family patriarch. After much research into Revolutionary War-era landscaping and clothing, an image emerged of a man in uniform, holding a musket. Perhaps most touching was the fact that the artist fashioned Ensign William Hughes’s face after that of Major John Hughes, Bill’s son, currently serving in Afghanistan.
And so, fittingly, an oil painting of Ensign William Hughes now hangs in the Hughes’s home at Rosedale, a poignant reminder of the man who bequeathed their heritage of honor.
To view the ads honoring the Hughes family, go to www.youtube.com and search for “Bank of America Hughes.”