Gen. Hughes honored with plane dedication

Brigadier General (ret.) John Hughes’ son, John Hughes Jr., reads prepared remarks on his father’s behalf at the dedication ceremony of the Scott AFB Air Park’s KC-135. The plane was dedicated to his father for his four decades of service to the 126th Air Refueling Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Sam Scinta)

By Sam Scinta

SCOTT AFB – For O’Fallon resident Brigadier General (ret.) John Hughes, his has been a life of tireless and selfless service to his country.

On Saturday at the Scott Air Force Base Heritage Air Park, that service was again recognized in front of many of those whose lives he has touched with his leadership, guidance, and compassion.

The Air Park’s KC-135, the aircraft flown by the 126th Air Refueling Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard, was dedicated in honor of the retired General, recognizing Hughes for his over four decades of service to the 126th and the United States.

“My dad spent 35 of his 42 years of service with the 126th ARW, and believed he served in the ‘best of times’. His nickname in the wind was ‘Dad’, and quite a few of you present today have experienced his parenting skills, sometimes not always pleasant, but in most of your cases, very necessary,” joked John Hughes, the General’s son, who spoke on his behalf. “He is so proud of the people he mentored and strongly believes in their abilities.”

General Hughes was unable to be present at the dedication, due to medical reasons. He instead watched the ceremony on a live feed alongside his daughter Julie, and was grateful for the overwhelming show of support from those who came to honor him. 

The plane that was dedicated was retired in March of 2009 after logging 17,137 hours of flight time. The KC-135 is the second longest serving aircraft in the Air Force, behind only the B-52 bomber. 

“My father told me how proud it makes him to look at this plane, because he sees a symbol that created opportunity for him to make a better life for himself and his family,” Hughes added. “To my father, family is related by blood, but also in service. His wish is that this plane be a symbol for all of his family, blood and service related alike, because it takes the effort of all to make any mission successful.” 

A Chicago native, General Hughes moved to O’Fallon when the 126th ARW was moved from O’Hare International Airport to Scott Air Force Base in 1999. General Hughes graduated with a Masters degree from DePaul University and received officer commission afterward, moving quickly through the ranks before eventually being promoted to Brigadier General in the position of Illinois Assistant Adjutant General-Air in April of 2009.

Before his position as Assistant Adjutant General-Air, General Hughes served as Vice Wing Commander for the 126th at Scott AFB from 2000 until his promotion in 2009, holding the position during the early days of the wing’s tenure in the Metro East. He oversaw many of the operations during the wing’s deployments following the attacks on September 11th, including deployments to the Azores and to the Middle East.

General Hughes retired in September of 2010 after 42 years of service. He then went on to work for St. Clair County under County Chairman Mark Kern.

The dedication was planned in part by his sisters, Kathy and Nancy, and his wife of 35 years, Ellen. The couple celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary at home on Monday.