Veterans Day 2019: Clifford Hunsaker and son reflect on generations of fathers in service

"Each of us living in this amazing country has a reason to stand up and thank those that have served and be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy."--Clifford Hunsaker

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In honor of Veterans Day 2019, Lancer Media interviewed local veterans to listen and talk about their experiences.  Zack Hunsaker chose to interview his father who served 23 years in the United States Air-force and recently retired. Him and his father discussed what the military was like for him and their family history in the military. 

Zack used StoryCorps app to record the interview. StoryCorps is an American non-profit organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.

Zack: What made you decide to join the Air Force?

Hunsaker:I joined the Air Force in Tucson, Arizona.  I moved in with a friend in Tucson and joined the Air Force because I didn’t know anything about college and didn’t really have a good path for my future at the time.  I had been thinking of joining the Air Force since I was in high school. I always wanted to fly.”

Zack: How did you imagine military life before you joined?

Hunsaker:I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that my father had served in Vietnam, my grandfather in World War II, my great grandfather in World War I, but they never talked about it.  I had been around Marines when I was younger as they used to come over all the time and swim in our pool. I remember the Marines were really nice and were hard workers.  I guess that’s what I expected, hard work and a lot of ‘brotherhood’.”

Zack: How did your perceptions change after serving?

Hunsaker:My perceptions didn’t change much.  I would say they evolved more than anything.  When I was younger, I saw the military as crazy-eyed ‘charge into battle with big guns’ kinda guys.  When I joined, I did well on the entrance exam and was able to choose any job I wanted. I chose to do intelligence and, specifically, language translation.  I then went into Special Operations while staying in the Intelligence career field.

As far as perceptions go, I was able to work with exactly what I always hoped the military was; hard working, super smart and often crazy-eyed military members who were like a well-oiled machine and super tight with each other.  I enjoyed that kind of atmosphere where somebody can yell at you one second and the next you are best friends working a problem for the boss.”

Zack: Where have you served?

Basic Training – San Antonio, Texas

Training – Monterey, California. San Angelo, Texas.

Stationed – Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.  Fort Meade, MD. San Antonio, Texas. Fort Bragg, NC.  Defense Intelligence Agency, Counter Narcotics and Defense Combating Terrorism Center. National Security Agency, Senior Intelligence Analysis Authority.

Deployment locations: Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Thailand, Horn of Africa (Djibouti/Somalia), Yemen.

Zack: How did 9/11 affect you?

Hunsaker: “Well, I joined the military in Dec of 1995 on a 6-year enlistment.  In September of 2001, I was two weeks from starting my terminal leave and getting out of the Air Force to start school on a path to the FBI as a counter-terrorism Special Agent.  First off, our oldest son was born on that day in the Presidents Hospital the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Second, the next day everybody in my career field was stop lossed.  That meant anybody who had not officially started Terminal Leave was forced to stay in the military. For me, that meant I was not allowed to start school and had to continue in the military with no idea when I could get out.  Six months later, the Air Force changed the re-enlistment bonus for my career field in intelligence to $75,000. With no end to ‘stop loss’ in sight, we decided to re-enlist for the bonus and pay off student loans and some other bills.”

Zack: What does Veterans Day mean to you? Why is it important?

Hunsaker:Veterans Day is that one day a year we can take a minute and really thank those who have sacrificed for us.  For me, I look at the World War II and Vietnam veterans and all the things they suffered and went through for us.  Without them this country would be very different. Without them, we wouldn’t know about Post Traumatic Stress issues and have developed ways to better take care of our Soldiers.  I see the pride in our Veterans and I want to be like them, standing tall for the nation they fought so hard to defend. On top of that, they go on to lead amazing lives never asking for anything but continuing to serve in their own ways.”

Zack: What is something you want everyone to know about Veterans Day?

Hunsaker:On Veterans Day, it doesn’t matter your views or your ideologies.  Each of us living in this amazing country has a reason to stand up and thank those that have served and be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy.”

In nature’s pasture, all unfenc’d, a dreadful battle commenc’d.  We knew we must ourselves and country defend and each, to other, aid extend.”

— Abraham Hunsaker, 1846

Zack’s family has a long tradition of military service dating back to pre-Revolutionary War. 

  • Hartman Hunsaker – landed in Pennsylvania in 1731 with his family and joined the local Pennsylvania Militia.
  • Johannes Hunsaker– served in the Pennsylvania Militia .
  • Jacob Hunsaker Senior– served in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Civil War.
  • Jacob Hunsaker Junior– served in the Pennsylvania militia near the end of the Civil War.
  • Abraham Hunsaker– first sergeant in the Mormon battalion (only battalion in U.S. history that was designated a religious battalion and the longest march in U.S. history) Also served in the Civil War.
  • Robert Sweeten Hunsaker– Served in the Army Reserves.
  • Thomas Hunsaker Senior– Drafted into WW1 and served as a sniper on the russian front.

Thomas Hunsaker Junior– Drafted into WW2 and served in Guadalcanal and parts of Europe.

Thomas E. Hunsaker Sr. Right, Thomas E. Hunsaker Jr. Left

Floyd Hunsaker- Drafted into Vietnam war and served as a pershing missile. operator. Later went on to serve in the border patrol for 22 years and is currently retired. 

Clifford Hunsaker- Served 23.5 years in the United States Airforce and served in the Iraq War, Afghan, and worked with special operations that helped kill Osama Bin Laden.  Recently retired in May 2019.