Remembering Master Sergeant John E. Hayes.
A Marine from Middleburg was killed Wednesday while serving in Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense said 36-year-old Master Sergeant John E. Hayes died on Wednesday while supporting combat operations in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.
Another Marine, Lance Corporal Roger G. Hager, from North Carolina, was also killed.
The family of 36-year-old Hayes said he had e-mailed his wife from Afghanistan sometime last Wednesday and told her he was doing OK.
Just a short time later, Hayes and another soldier were killed when their vehicle was hit by a road-side bomb.
Betsy Kahmer didn't have a good feeling when her son-in-law Hayes embarked on his fourth tour of duty. This time she had the feeling she would never see him again.
"We were lucky enough to get him back the other three times he was over," Kahmer said. "The family knew that every time he went, the chances of getting him back were less and less and less."
Hayes was coming off patrol Wednesday when his vehicle was hit by an IED. The family said Hayes and 20-year-old Roger Hager were killed instantly. Shannon Hayes learned about her husbands death later that night.
"She's devastated," Shannon's brother Sean Hall said. "I've been trying to talk to her. I've talked to her a couple of times since. Trying to get to talk to her for more than five minutes at a time is really hard to do. She's holding out for the kids, but she's really hurting bad."
John and Shannon Hayes were high school sweethearts. They moved to North Carolina shortly after John enlisted in the Marine Corps.
The couple had three children and frequently came back to visit their hometown. They made a stop in Middleburg earlier this year, right before John left for Afghanistan.
"He was just here. Just here at Easter," Hall said. "I mean it gives me the chills now just talking about it."
"There's nothing you can do actually," Hall added. "Just thoughts and prayers are with my sister, and the family is supporting her any way they can. It's horrible."
"He's loving and good and everything a mother would want their daughter to have," Kahmer said, "and I just can't believe he's not going to be here anymore."
Hager, 20, of Gibsonville, and Hayes were both assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.
Hayes, was the operations chief for Company A, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 3, according to a press release from II Marine Expeditionary Force. He joined the Marine Corps in July 1991 and was promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant in September 2008.
Hayes deployed to Afghanistan in April. His previous deployments included Kosovo and Albania in 1998, Kuwait in 1991 and Iraq in 2003 and 2007. 16 July 2009:
Betsy Kahmer remembers the first time she met her daughter's high school sweetheart.
"I just thought he was a nice kid, but as time went on I realized what a nice young man he was," she said.
Within a few years, her daughter married John Eric Hayes, a military man.
"Every mother's dream is for her daughter to marry somebody like John," said Kahmer.
But 16 years and three children later, the life they lived as a couple would come to a tragic end.
Hayes, a Marine, was killed instantly last week when his humvee hit an IED in Afghanistan.
"It was like someone just hit me square in the face, even though we knew deep down in our hearts that Afghanistan was a powder keg and we were worried about his safety," said Kahmer.
Now, this family worries about the future---a future without a man and father everyone loved.
"He's not gonna see them, he's not going to hold them," said brother-in-law, Sean Hall. "His boy is not going to be able to go fishing with him or camping with him."
Kahmer says it does help her to know Hayes died doing what he loved.
"If he had to pick his way of dying, he'd pick this way because this is what he believed in. He truly believed in the cause," she said.
Hayes will be buried in Arlington Cemetery with full military honors August 10, 2009.
The local VFW is also planning a memorial service for him.
Middleburg Marine John Hayes killed fighting in Afghanistan
Local Marine killed In Afghanistan
Middleburg Marine remembered, 10 August 2009
MIDDLEBURG, Florida - Today, a hometown hero will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant John Eric Hayes was killed in Afghanistan last month when his vehicle hit an explosive device. Hayes graduated from Middleburg High School, where he met his wife. They later moved to North Carolina and had three children.
Over 100 HeroBracelets were distributed to the family and friends as well as sterling silver HeroBracelets given to his widow and three childr