Saturday, May 23, 2015

Robert Gerald "Jerry" Hunter 1941-1966

Jerry Hunter was born about four months before me.  He lived with his family in Douglasville.  As small kids we sometimes played together as kids.  Honestly, we did not hit it off, we had two different lifestyles.  I was what would I call now a "free range" kid.  I had freedom do wander where I wanted and come back when I wanted (within reason).  Jerry, on the other hand, was raised to ask his parents' permission to leave the yard.
I think that the well-disciplined way of life paid off for him.  He graduated from Douglasville High school with honors and also graduated from Citadel Military College in Charleston as an military officer and a pilot.
He gave his life in the Viet Nam War.  He was shot down .
From the magazine LOOKING GOOD DOUGLAS COUNTY, Vol 1, Number 3, March/April 1988. Article JERRY HUNTER: he gave his life.  By Vicki Harsbarger.
Jerry Hunter, 25, was about to complete his 34th mission of the Vietnam War.
The two months he had spent in Vietnam had been filled with missions such as this one.  Supply lines were sought, supply lines were bombed.
The F-105 was a one-man jet requiring much expertise of the pilot.  He delivered his bombs directly on the targeted bridge.  The enemy fire hit the plane, he bailed out.  The pilots watched as the parachute disappeared from sight in the trees.
From the ground, a beeper signal was heard by the pilots.  They attempted a rescue, but enemy fire struck from the area of the area where the parachute had landed.  A second plane was hit, and the pilots were forced to return to base.
Two months later, American soldiers were able to search the place where Robert Gerald Hunter went down.  Laos natives took the men to the place where his body was buried.
Jerry began his final journey home to be buried in the town where he was voted most talented of Douglas County High School; where he dreamed of one day attending the Citadel; and where of dream of becoming a pilot began with an essay written on how Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic would affect the future of aviation.
Awards came early for Jerry Hunter.  He was honored with other superlatives at Douglas County High School, with his claim to fame the title of Most Talented.  He was well known for his artistic talents, and worked as editor of the school yearbook.  He starred in the senior play.
"If anything happens to him, he's doing what he wants to do", his wife of one year, Laura Ann Milby, had said of Hunter.  His parents, Robert and Zelma, had suggested that he choose a line of work in keeping with his Citadel degree in business administration, but he would not settle for less than his dreams.
"He wanted to be the best." Zelma Hunter reminisces.  "He always wanted to be a good pilot.  He said if he made a good place for himself in the Air Force he would make a career of it or he would be become a commercial pilot," she said.
The handsome flyer passed all manner of physical tests toprove his fitness of pilot training, which he received at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta following his graduation from the Citadel with honors.  Minor surgery was suffered twice by Hunter in order to fly the F-105, Mrs. Hunter said.
"He didn't want us to worry," Mrs. Hunter says lovingly of her son.  "I'd ask him on the telephone if he'd been shot at, wanting him to say no. He'd say, "Yes, but  they missed.  Don't worry about it, Mom, sometimes it's fun."
During the week while the Hunters awaited the return of Jerry's body, the Chamber of Commerce acting on a motion by Church of Christ Minister Richard Waggoner, passed a resolution recommending that the park be memorably named Hunter Park.
On July 18, 1966, the Hunters' hopes died with the news of their son's death and his returning body.  On July 22, funeral services were held at the Church where Jerry became a Christian, First Baptist Church of Douglasville.  The church was overflowing as the first Douglas County military and 11th Citadel victim of the Vietnam war was laid to rest.
Over 100 flags flew at Douglasville businesses, painstakingly placed there by the remembering hands of the Jaycees.  The town was subdued as businesses closed for the afternoon.
As faces were in unison at Rose Memorial Gardens Cemetery toward the casket containing the remains of Robert Gerald Hunter, the sound of planes roared overhead, urging the mourners to gaze upward.
Four planes flew across the horizon in unison, three planes returned.

This plane is a fixture at Douglasville's Robert Gerald Hunter's Memorial Park

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