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John Stuart Hunt, Wall 7 West, line 129

vietnam-memorial.jpg
I met John Stuart Hunt on Wall 7 West, line 129, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I was giving my friend Miette the walking tour of downtown Washington D.C., and we stopped to look up her brother-in-law. The book we referenced gave us his name, rank, branch of service, date of birth (he was born the day after what would later become my wedding anniversary), date of death (he died within days of what would later become the my son’s birthday) and his hometown of Santa Ana, California (he was a fifth-generation Californian, I later learned.) On the wall, 7 West, line 129, John’s is a name in a sea of names, each distinguishingly different from yet equal to the next.

Miette called John’s brother, Jim Hunt, and we learned from just that brief conversation that John graduated from my alma mater, the University of Arizona, the same year I was born. Jim said John picked up tendencies of a “flower child” at the UA, and that John was a man whose idea of shooting animals in the desert meant simply photographing them.

We learned John was immediately drafted by the Army upon graduation from the UA and was sent to basic training at Fort Ord. According to his brother, John was apprehensive about being a soldier (a soldier’s job is to kill), but ultimately was more worried about the safety of his fellow soldiers. He had a special aptitude and became his unit’s Machine Gunner. Four months later, on October 12, 1970, John S. Hunt was killed in action, protecting a helicopter rescue which was being over-run by enemy soldiers. His efforts were awarded with a Silver Star.

And that’s only the beginning of John’s story. And John’s is only one name.

5 comments
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  • Christine - sounds like an invitation I couldn’t refuse! enjoy…ReplyCancel

  • Jim Hunt - Christine, the photograph of the Viet Nam Monument arrived at our house. It is very touching.

    Many years have passed since the war and losing my brother. Seeing the wall, his name, and the Washington Monument in the reflection adds a new perspective to the memories. The Washington monument symbolizes what America is about and the need to defend our way of life. Better yet, your presentation brings visual poetry to the thanks we express to our lost soldiers.

    The good news is we just redid our floors and staircase and are now putting a “rogue’s gallery” on the staircases walls. You have given us the perfect entry for Johnny!

    Thanks ever so much from all of us and if you ever come to California lets get together. Better yet, bring Steve and Miette and we can really party!ReplyCancel

  • antisocialist - Excellent post, Miette. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Miette - This was the most amazing day for me. I’m 42 and I’d never seen our nation’s capitol. The monuments were amazing, and visiting the National Gallery was almost a religious experience (I looked like a complete idiot standing in a room full of Degas paintings with my mouth hanging open, and walking up to the paintings and putting my head as close to the artwork as I could without getting tackled by the guards so I could look at the actual brushstrokes). But truly the highlight of that day was a series of events related to the taking of this photo. From my startlingly sensitive 14 year-old Vietnam War officionado son reminding me to do it (I honestly never would have remembered), to Christine lying on the ground to take the picture (and I mean hair and bare arms and all–I have a photo!), it illustrated beautifully the things I must always remember to be thankful for: family, friends and country. You can see Christine’s talent in the photo–but a comment she made later truly illustrates why her ability to take amazing photos extends beyond just making things look nice. WE had been talking about photography in general, and as a business, and all the struggles and frustrations that go along with it, and she suddenly remembered Johnny’s photo. She literally “lit up” with the memory of that one picture and told me “If this photo means something–brings Johnny back even a little–to someone now or in the future…if someone’s children or grandchildren see this and it reminds them of their family history…that’s really something! That’s what I want my pictures to do!”

    Enough said. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • antisocialist - This is a surpassingly beautiful article. It reminds the antisocialist of something else he’s read, something by his favorite writer, Karl Jay Shapiro:

    VIETNAM MEMORIAL

    It lies on its side in the grassy Mall
    A capsized V, a skeletal
    Half-sunken hull of a lost cause
    Between the Washington Monument and the Capitol.

    To see it you descend a downward path
    And stare up at the blackened decks of names,
    Army of names that holds this cenotaph
    Shimmering in shadow in the fosse.

    Topside you can hear children at their games,
    Down in this trench there is no gab,
    Someone lays flowers under a name that was,
    Our eyes like seaworms crawl across the slab.

    Coasting the fifty-thousand here who died,
    We surface breathless, come up bleary-eyed.

    Doesn’t that say it all? How fifty-thousand names are not names at all but rather represent, each and every single one, a human being who was once living and vital and breathing, as you and I are now. Not to sound sententious here, as I know I do, but when you stop and consider it, it really is no small thing at all.

    Thank you for this.ReplyCancel

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