Friday, June 18, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter, 25, of South Amherst, Ohio

SSgt. Hunter was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died June 18, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

A bomb blast has claimed the life of a local soldier in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. James Hunter, 25, grew up in South Amherst, Ohio and graduated from Firelands High School.

He spent seven years in the army, had served twice in Iraq and was on duty in Afghanistan Friday when he and another solder suffered fatal injuries from the explosion.

After two tours in Iraq, and nearly one month into his first tour in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. James Hunter was certainly no stranger to combat. “He’s a combat veteran,” said his father, Winchester resident Tom Hunter.

On Friday, James was on foot patrol when a roadside bomb exploded, killing him and another member of his unit instantly. The soldier was in Afghanistan as a photojournalist, carrying “a camera on his side, plus a weapon,” his father said. “I want people to know he was out there trying to get the news,” Tom said.

The younger Hunter entered the military in 2003, right after his high school graduation. His father said that he was initially surprised by his son’s decision, but believed his son felt led to serve because of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“He had already enrolled in Bowling Green University (in Ohio) and was supposed to get his key for his dorm room,” Tom said.

James attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and received photography training at Fort Meade, Maryland. “It’s a pretty extensive school he attended,” his father said. “He had an interest in it (photography) and he enjoyed it.”

Although James was raised in northern Ohio, he always felt a connection to his birthplace. He will be buried in Lexington sometime next week, and services will be conducted at Winchester First United Methodist Church.

“He loved Kentucky basketball. ... He just thought the world of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson,” Tom said. “. ... He could be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but he just loved Kentucky.”

He also hoped to attend the University of Kentucky as part of the “Green to Gold” program, which allows soldiers to attend school and return to the Army as officers.

James had recently become engaged to Candice Clark, a fellow soldier now working at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He became engaged to Candice atop the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Valentine's Day.

Tom said he had last talked to his son Tuesday or Wednesday, and he sounded in good spirits. “He really thought we could make a difference,” his father said.

Although James had already been deployed twice, he was not apprehensive about going to the Middle East again, Tom said. He always remained positive and even turned down a position at division headquarters to continue serving with his unit.

“He was a really good boy. He cared more about others than he did himself. He loved the Army. He believed in what he was doing,” Tom said.

As an Army veteran, Tom said that his son’s military achievements are particularly meaningful for him. “I spent a long time in the Army, and I never accomplished what he’s been able to. That’s good — you want your kids to be better,” Tom said.

In addition to James, he has two other children in the military. Daughter Charity Morgan is currently serving in the Navy and son Billy Hunter is the Marine Corps and has also been deployed to Afghanistan.

Tom said he was outside smoking a cigarette last week when his wife told him that some soldiers were there to speak with him. “I knew it wasn’t good,” Tom said. Still, he has praised the Army for their handling of the situation. “They’re really taking care of us,” Tom said.

A memorial service will take place in Ohio later this week at Firelands High School, where James attended, before he is returned to Kentucky for services and burial.

“Jimmy had a good heart and was well-liked,” Tom said. “. … I just wish I could have been in his shoes. He’s a hero.”

His family released this statement:

"The family of SSG James P. Hunter wish to extend their heartfelt thanks to all who have expressed their continued support and sympathies in this difficult time. Until the experience of such a loss is seen with your own eyes, heard with your own ears or felt with the agony of your own heartbreak, it is impossible to express in words how challenging it is and continues to be for military families, such as ours, to work through. James is and will forever remain close in our hearts. We are grateful to all who have come forward from the community and the United States Army to both share their grief and respect our needs in celebrating James' memory, as well as his distinguished service to this country. We ask that you pray for the safe and speedy return of all the sons and daughters serving tonight in the name of freedom and liberty."

Hunter’s awards and decorations include: Joint Service Commendation Medal; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Joint Meritorious Unit Award; Meritorious Unit Commendation; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; Combat Action Badge; Parachutist Badge and Weapons Qualification, M4, expert.

Army Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter was killed in action on 6/18/10.


Anonymous said...

Still can't believe you're not with were such a wonderful person. Miss you James <3


Anonymous said...

I miss and love you dearly JP.