I saw a man with a camera and a notepad when my unit was conducting the Eagle First Responder course, a 5-day certification equivalent to the Combat Lifesaver course, in preparation for our deployment to Afghanistan in the spring of 2010.
He wore a U.S. Army uniform just like me. He was doing the exact same training I was, and he was writing a story about it. He talked to everyone, took pictures of everything and had a smile on his face at all times during this training.
I saw this man, this Soldier, and he appeared happy with what he was doing in life and service.
A week later I opened the Fort Campbell Courier, the installation's newspaper, and I saw an article about the training I took part in. I also noticed the 'by line' with the Soldier's name. When I saw this I was immediately intrigued that this was a job in the U.S. Army.
I spoke to him frequently and picked his brain about his MOS, 46Q, a Public Affairs Specialist. He told me the career field was in need of people, and I should consider joining it. Although I was interested in submitting a MOS reclassification packet, it would be a while before I could even think about making this career change.
This is because I recently reenlisted back in the Army as a combat infantryman after a four-year break in service following my first term of service. With a deployment to Afghanistan right around the corner, I knew I would have to wait.
During my tenure at the brigade, I would always talk to the members of the public affairs team. It was a special PAO shop because the people in it would put a smile on your face. They were mini-celebrities to some of us, and we loved having them around because we knew they were going to tell our story and tell it right.
When we got to Afghanistan we knew it was going to be tough. The fighting was heavy during that deployment.
Once again I saw a man. I saw a man with a camera, his notebook and in full gear, just like the rest of us. This man was courageous. He was going to go to battle with his eye through a viewfinder and put all of his trust in those around him to keep him safe, ensuring our story and pictures of real life heroism was told.
The man I saw was the real hero, this man was Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter.
He was killed in action during a dismounted patrol by a improvised explosive device on June 18, 2010 in Kandahar along with another Soldier.
Following his death, Hunter's sacrifice and achievements inspired me to move forward and pursue a career in Army Public Affairs because it was something he encouraged me to do. I eventually put my reclassification packet together to become a U.S. Army Public Affairs professional in 2014.
Shortly after graduating from the Defense Information School and being assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in 2015, I reviewed the categories of the Maj. Gen, Keith L. Ware Communications Awards Competition.
Then I saw it, "The Staff Sgt. James P. Hunter Award for Outstanding New Writer" as one of the categories in the competition. Flashes of everything I've worked for and memories of him sent goose bumps throughout my body.
This award named after him added to the overwhelming inspiration that James Hunter had already passed on to me. His legacy lives on throughout the career field he was so passionate about.
His dedication and personality continue to impact my life till this very day.
Every story, every photo, every relationship and every piece of public affairs accolade I have today I owe to this man. This man's name was James P. Hunter.