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.