A 22-year-old Sedalia man will never get the opportunity to serve his country in Iraq, something he badly wanted.
Missouri National Guardsman Matthew Scott Hughes died Wednesday after he crashed a friend’s car in Cooper County.
Hughes was a young man who enjoyed spending time with friends and family, said his parents, George Hughes, of Kansas City, and Gale Hughes, of Sedalia. He was looking to make a career in the military and had settled down, Ms. Hughes said.
“He was just starting to take life seriously,” she said.
Matthew was on his way home from Otterville on state Route A when he drove his vehicle off the road at a curve, and it rolled over several times and struck a fence. He was not wearing a seat belt, and was thrown from the car. Cooper County Coroner Larry Jones pronounced him dead at 8:33 a.m. Wednesday.
Ms. Hughes said Matthew “loved to drive fast,” and she thinks that may have contributed to the fatal crash.
“He was just a little hot rodder,” she said. “I used to get on him about it all the time.”
Matthew was inspired to join the military after his cousin enlisted in the Marines, his father said. Matthew signed up with the Missouri National Guard last March and graduated from basic training in May at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, a move that made both his parents proud.
Matthew was an automated logistical specialist and wanted to be deployed to Iraq.
“That’s all he talked about was going to Iraq,” Ms. Hughes said.
“He told me he wanted to go over there to help people,” Mr. Hughes said.
Ms. Hughes said the stories she heard on the news about suicide bombings made her worry about Matthew’s deployment.
“I was very proud of him, period. But, I was always trying to talk him out of (deploying to Iraq) ... of course I was scared,” she said.
“I thought it was great he was making a life for himself,” Mr. Hughes said.
Matthew somehow may have been preparing for his death, his mother said.
“Sometimes people say people know when they’re going to go,” Ms. Hughes said. “He said an awful lot of I love yous in the last few days before he died, more than usual.”
The young soldier also tried to set straight the beneficiary listed on his death benefits through the National Guard. He had changed the beneficiary from his father to a girlfriend. Ms. Hughes described the short-lived relationship as “puppy love.”
Matthew and the girl broke up, but remained friends, his parents said. He had told his parents he planned to rename his father as the beneficiary in the weeks before his death, they said.
“Bottom line is, the whole insurance amount went to her,” Mr. Hughes said.
Now the Hughes family must come up with the money for a cremation and visitation at the funeral home, as they grieve their son. They had wanted a casket burial, but that would have cost at least $4,000.
“We can’t do it; we can’t afford it,” Mr. Hughes said.
Instead, the Hughes family opted to have the body cremated and a visitation at the funeral home for $1,875. Cornerstone Baptist Church has offered to host a memorial service Sunday.
“My main concern was just that he have a nice funeral, and I think we got that accomplished,” Ms. Hughes said.
An anonymous donor gave $900 to the National Guard to help defray the costs of the arrangements. Matthew’s parents still need the remaining $975. Family friend Nilda Noland has set up a memorial fund at Union Savings bank to help raise money for the family.
Ms. Hughes said Matthew was living with her while he awaited activation in the National Guard. She said he recently inquired at State Fair Community College about studying computers there. Mr. Hughes said Matthew “was just really smart with” computers.
Matthew dropped out of high school and received his general equivalency diploma.
“He never did like school from grade one,” Ms. Hughes said.
After that, he spent a stint working for a concessions company, traveling to different states for fairs and carnivals. His mother said he enjoyed the job because as was able to meet people. He also worked for Bartlett Grain Co. in Kansas City.
Matthew was a typically defiant teenager who got into his fair share of troubles.
“Matthew was pretty ornery in his life, but he had the biggest heart,” Ms. Hughes said.
“He would do for others before he would do for himself,” Mr. Hughes said.
In the last week before he died, Matthew demonstrated his kindness. He made a batch of vegetable soup, his first attempt, which turned out good, Ms. Hughes said. Matthew was so proud that he made more, bought plastic containers and handed it out to friends, family and neighbors.
Ms. Hughes said she babied Matthew, the youngest of three children. He is survived by a sister, Georgina Hughes, 30, and a brother, Jeffrey Hughes, 27, both of Sedalia. He also spent a lot of time with cousins.
“He had a few best friends, but almost everything he did was with his family,” Ms. Hughes said.
His parents said they will miss everything about their son, including the way he joked around and even argued with his brother.
“I’ll miss seeing his face, and he always smelled so good,” Ms. Hughes said.
Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Cornerstone Baptist Church. Friends may call after 4 p.m. Saturday at Ewing-Schutte-Semler Funeral Home, where the family will receive from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
The family suggests memorial contributions to the Matthew S. Hughes Funeral Fund, in care of Union Savings Bank, 101 S. Ohio, Sedalia, MO 65301.