Mike Hughes, who grew up in Winlock and was due to get married this weekend, died Monday in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan.
Hughes was one of two civilian contractors who died in the explosion just outside the Pul-i-Charkhi prison in east Kabul, the Afghan capital.
CBS News reported that two employees and nearby civilians perished when one of two NATO vehicles leaving the prison was slammed into by another car, which exploded.
Hezbi Islami, the second largest Islamic militant group in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to CBS.
Hughes’ death was confirmed Monday night by friends, who said he’d been working for DynCorp. International, advising Afghani jailers on how to run prisons. He’d been working in Afghanistan several years after working for about a decade at the McNeil Island Corrections Center in Washington.
The 1993 Winlock High School grad was due to return to the U.S. on Wednesday and marry Holly Orbino, a fellow Winlock grad, said Ferdinand Orbino of Seattle, a longtime friend of Hughes and brother of his fiancée.
“She’s a wreck,” Orbino said of his sister, who’d known Hughes since high school but had become engaged to him about a year ago.
Hughes, 38, “was the class clown” at Winlock High School, recalled Charrie LaFarr, a longtime friend and Winlock resident. “He was the one who made everyone laugh. Everyone is commenting on Facebook about that.”
Partly as a gag, partly because he truly was upset at the governance of Winlock, Hughes ran for mayor at age 18.
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“He was a good kid. Really solid. He never caused problems. He was one of those kids that was always there, very reliable,” recalled Mike Voie, Winlock’s football coach.
Orbino and longtime friend Jim Kunz, now of Olympia, said Hughes had tried several jobs after high school but really took to corrections work.
Working overseas was lucrative, and Hughes' "goal was to have a house and live comfortably and not worry about his finances," Kunz said. After one more job in Afghanistan, he was planning to return to the U.S. for good in November, Kunz said.
Orbino, though, had served in the military in the Iraq conflict and had warned his friend about the dangers there before Hughes signed on with DynCorp.
“I tried to talk him out of it,” Orbino said. “I tried to emphasize the risks.”
Hughes and Holly Orbino were supposed to wed in a quiet ceremony in Las Vegas, where she lives. It was to be a first marriage for both of them.
Hughes’ sister Trish Hughes and mother, Linda Mundale, also live in Las Vegas, where Mundale moved after retiring about two years ago as a special education teacher in the Winlock School District.
Hughes also has a brother, Danny Hughes of Montana, and two half-sisters. He leaves no children.
Funeral services are pending.
Editor's note (Feb. 11): A previous version of this article misidentified DynCorp. International, the company that employed former Winlock resident Mike Hughes in Afghanistan.
City Editor Andre Stepankowsky can be reached at 360-577-2520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.