On Friday, Army Public Affairs lost one of its best journalists that I had the opportunity to work with in my past 10 years of service.
Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, was killed while walking on patrol through the streets of Kandahar, Afghanistan. He is the first Army journalist killed in action since the operations began.
At 25 years old, his life was cut short doing something he was passionate about. He had a passion for telling the Soldier’s story. He captured the stories most don’t talk about – the stories of Soldiers doing good things for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unfortunately, because of the individuals who oppose the mission in Afghanistan, Hunter’s voice has been silenced. The Soldier’s story as Hunter saw it will no longer be told.
Hunter’s death hit me exceptionally hard. In the nine years we’ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is the first Soldier that was killed that I knew personally and professionally. He is the first Soldier that I’m able to put a face and voice to, out of the more than 5,000 that have been killed to date.
As the editor of the Fort Campbell Courier, I am one of the first to receive the release of those killed in action. It pains me every time to know that these Soldiers are dying to preserve my freedom.
As Hunter’s editor, I knew what he enjoyed to do and what he was good at doing. I was able to read every word that Hunter wrote and look at every fantastic photo that he took over the past three years we worked together.
I can tell you he truly loved to do stories during his deployments. He loved to be out on the front lines with the Soldiers.
Every photograph he ever took was out of this world and usually carried the front page. He had an eye that only certain individuals are blessed with.
It saddens me to think I have no pictures of Hunter except for his photo for his PAO badge, but then it makes me smile at the same time. I know that the reason there are limited photos of Hunter serving in uniform is because he was doing what he enjoyed – taking photos of other Soldiers and telling the Soldier’s story.
Hunter had a passion for everything he did in life. He cared about other people whether he knew them or not. He always put his “all” into every task he was assigned and he always expected those assignments to run on the front. He was always fighting to get his brigade in the spotlight.
It saddens me that I was not able to say goodbye to Hunter because I was on maternity leave when he swung by the office. I am very glad that I did get to see him the week after I gave birth during a chance meeting.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I came in to the office to show off my newest addition and Hunter popped his head into my office.
When he saw my daughter, in typical Hunter-style he gave a nod in her direction and said, “Is that yours?” I replied, “She sure is.”
Then he ended with, “Cute kid, good job.”
It still makes me chuckle.
I am really, really going to miss you, Staff Sgt. Hunter. You always knew how to make the editor laugh and leave an impression.
I know you’re in good hands now, but I’m really upset you were taken from this world so soon.