A father figure, a mentor and a best friend.
This is how US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Deffenbaugh described his late stepfather Guy L. Hunter Jr., 77, of Topsail Island, who died peacefully at home on December 16 with his wife in its ratings.
A Vietnam veteran and former Iraqi POW, Hunter will be remembered for more than his military service – he was a family man and a known contributor to the Onslow County veteran community.
“A true patriot”
When asked why Hunter is best known, his son-in-law replied that it depended on who you are talking about.
“If you’ve spoken to those who served with him, they’ll tell you that they’ve never met someone who was more proficient at their job than him,” Deffenbaugh said. “If you talk to the veterans community (and organizations) it would be their generosity, whether it’s volunteering their time or speaking at different events to help, especially the Rolling Thunder,” to sensitize prisoners of war and in particular those missing from Vietnam who never returned home.
Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Longtime Rolling Thunder member Paul Levesque used the words “humble” and “witty” to describe Hunter, whom he has known for over a decade.
“Those who knew Guy Hunter would likely remember him as a man with a great sense of humor, a great family man and full support for the veterans service organizations he was in.” affiliate in many ways, ”Levesque said in a statement. “Guy Hunter was not someone who sought to be recognized or ‘in the spotlight’ within the veteran community, but he was a true patriot and comrade in his own way.”
Who was Guy Hunter?
Born and raised on a farm in Moultrie, Ga., Hunter enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1962 after high school. In 1963, he was a radio station in Vietnam, where he flew four missions, including one in which he was awarded Naval Aviation Observer Wings for completing 125 missions in a Bird Dog observation aircraft.
On January 18, 1991, while on a reconnaissance flight as an aerial observer in Kuwait, Hunter’s aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile.
In 2017, while speaking at Air Command and Staff College, Hunter recalled that the missile knocked the helmet off his head and left him unconscious. He recounted waking up in the burning plane, losing consciousness again, and waking up in a parachute after the pilot ejected him.
The two landed near an Iraqi infantry division unable to escape capture.
Hunter said in his 2017 speech at Maxwell Air Force Base that he believed he was going to die at the hands of the enemy. He recalls losing consciousness during violent interrogations and sometimes feeling lucky to have a pint of water and a piece of bread every day while in captivity.
Hunter was held prisoner for a month and a half until hostilities ceased and he was handed over to the custody of the International Red Cross, then flown back to America. In 1992, he was selected as the first Marine to be promoted to Chief Warrant Officer 5 and retired at that rank in September 1994.
Hunter, who ended his career after serving in all active Marine Divisions and Air Squadrons, continued to teach at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville and moved to North Topsail Beach in recent years.
Hunter’s awards include the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy Medals of Honor with “V”, four Air Medals with “V”, Vietnamese Service Medal with 10 Campaign Stars, the Vietnamese Cross of Bravery, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation and the POW Medal.
“A faithful comrade”
Even with all of Hunter’s accolades, Deffenbaugh said his stepfather’s military career lasted only 32 years out of a life of 77 years.
“The community at large and people who have heard him speak a few times don’t know how much he loved a grandfather,” Deffenbaugh said. “Children were the world to him, and he always had fun telling them stories… He always had a turn full of grandchildren, until the very end.”
Hunter was also passionate about talking with young Marines, Deffenbaugh said.
“I think what he enjoyed most about service – aside from serving his country and giving back in general – was mentoring those around him,” Deffenbaugh said. “He started out as an enlisted man and always felt very connected to the NCO corps throughout his career… He really enjoyed investing his time in these Marines.”
Hunter was also described by Deffenbaugh as outgoing, warm and welcoming.
“Any room he walked into, it was the life of the party,” Deffenbaugh said. “Everyone just wanted to be around him.”
Lévesque said it was an honor to know him.
“I just have a ton of respect for Guy Hunter and his accomplishments,” said Lévesque. “For me, personally, he was a true friend, a very loyal Marine, a loyal comrade.”
Hunter was buried in the Carolina Coast State Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made in Hunter’s honor to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Beirut Memorial Chapter # 642.
According to Deffenbaugh, Hunter had been battling cancer for several years.
Journalist Calvin Shomaker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.