Posted on Nov 11, 2018 in Alumni News and News
During his deployment to Africa in 2011, Maj. Michael Hayes was tasked with distributing care packages from the National Guard’s family program director to his fellow soldiers. He was surprised, after about seven months, to receive a gift of his own: a grim-faced ceramic Jayhawk, which resembled the KU mascot introduced in 1941.
“I didn’t want to just set it on my desk,” recalls Hayes, c’08, an ROTC instructor and assistant professor of military science at KU. “I wanted to take pictures and send them back to her to say, ‘Look! I got it. Thank you!’ That’s how the pictures started.”
Inspired by Travelocity’s roaming gnome, Hayes took Jay on all of his deployments and work-related travel, capturing his crimson and blue companion riding in Chinooks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and overseeing troops at bases throughout the country and overseas.
As his collection of photos grew, Hayes started a Facebook page, “The Story of the Jayhawk,” to document their experiences.
Although the small figurine has been broken and repaired twice and now travels in the safety of a Styrofoam cooler, Jay shows no signs of retiring to a space on a shelf. Hayes even sends the mini mascot on journeys with other Army cadets and friends.
“Jay’s traveled more than I have,” Hayes says, “and I’ve jumped all over the place.”