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2004 Distinguished Graduate Award

COL David R. Hughes '50

Colonel Hughes began his career as an Infantry lieutenant fighting courageously in South Korea and then taught the hard-won lessons he learned to a new generation of infantrymen before returning to West Point to teach in the Department of English. After duty at the Pentagon, he departed for a new war in Vietnam, this time as an infantry battalion commander, and proved that his courage and leadership had not dimmed in the intervening years. After command and staff duty with the 4th Infantry Division, he retired in Colorado and began an equally impressive second career as an internet pioneer, a career that would take him to the far reaches of the globe.

Like many of his classmates, Colonel Hughes received his initiation into combat early in his military career when North Korean forces attacked South Korea shortly after his graduation. As a platoon leader and company commander in the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division, Lieutenant Hughes was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star for valor, two Purple Hearts, and the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. He then taught at the Infantry School before pursuing a Master of Arts degree at the University of Pennsylvania and returning to West Point to teach in the Department of English.

As a combat veteran English instructor, he gave generously of his time in the classroom and especially in helping cadets in difficulty. After duty at the Pentagon with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. He received a third Silver Star, a second Bronze Star for Valor, a third Purple Heart, and a second award of the Combat Infantryman Badge. He also garnered another battalion command: the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry, 5th Infantry Division.

Colonel Hughes then served as the Chief of Staff of the 4th Infantry Division before being selected to command the 3rd Brigade of that Division at Fort Carson, Colorado. He then retired in 1973 to pursue an equally challenging career of service on the frontiers of electronic change. By 1982 he was teaching a college course online-long before most Americans were aware of the internet.

Unselfishly and without regard for personal recognition, he brought broadband communications to Colorado's San Luis Valley and helped revitalize what had been a fading community economy. He traveled to remote areas to prove that wireless technology can be used effectively and efficiently to gather data for various scientific projects, including work in subzero temperatures in Alaska for the National Science Foundation. He helped Tsering Gyaltsen, the grandson of a Sherpa who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on his first conquest of Mount Everest, establish an internet café at the base camp (altitude 5,300 meters) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ascent. The café officially became operational with a message transmitted on 14 April 2003. As the camp is located on a moving glacier, wireless technology was required to connect the camp to a satellite dish higher up on solid ground. Not only will the internet connection allow communications to the outside world, a portion of the revenues generated will also assist the local Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee in ridding the slopes of Everest of the detritus of countless climbing expeditions. In the off season, the wireless system will be used to extend internet service to about 250 students in a school in Namche Bazar and provide the basis of a distance learning program. As a result of this demonstration of will, inquiries have been received from remote areas across the world about how they may establish low-cost, global communications.

His most ambitious effort to date, the Arwain (Welsh for "leading") project, is expected to regenerate depressed industrial towns and establish Wales as global internet leader. As a result of several trips by Colonel Hughes to Wales and countless hours spent briefing and instructing leaders and officials at all levels, a free broadband wireless network program (Broadband Wales) was funded by the Welsh Assembly to provide internet access for 67,000 businesses and 310,000 domestic customers in areas beyond the reach of commercial systems. Colonel Hughes has also contributed to wireless progress much closer to home by providing much of the enthusiasm, technological skill, and financing for the wireless initiative known as "Virtual West Point."

For a lifetime of service to West Point, the Army, our Nation, and people around the world, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award to a real "broadband cowboy," David Ralph Hughes, Class of 1950.

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