In this episode another Vietnam Veteran, Larry J. Hunley of Buffalo, New York, will be highlighted. He is another outstanding representative of the Great Vietnam Veteran Generation in that he served his country well in war, came home and continued serving his community and country in the field of education.
There was a story about him in The Buffalo News titled: Pause from college provided gruesome education in war that was submitted by Lou Michel. Michel’s story tells about Hunley being a bored college student at Buffalo State College. In his words Hunley “wanted to experience life beyond the city’s East Side.” The US Marines provided him with an excellent opportunity to do that after Hunley signed up in 1972.
His high test scores in Basic and Advanced Infantry training got him assigned to a 40-member Marine detachment aboard the USS Newport News, a heavy cruiser naval gunship with a crew of 1700. In September 1972 Hunley began his deployment on the Newport News which consisted of round the clock five hour shifts of crewing one of the ship’s gun turrets with two 5-inch barrels that provided fire support for the Marines on shore.
The shock of seeing wounded Marines being flown back to the on board sick bay was very sobering for the new Marine. It did not take long for something even more sobering to happen on the ship that changed Hunley’s life.
At 1 a.m. Oct. 1, 1972, a catastrophic event occurred aboard the ship during a firing mission. An eight-inch shell in one of the larger guns on the ship malfunctioned and exploded in the turret. Twenty on board personnel were killed by the explosion, fire and smoke inhalation. Hurley will always remember the smell of burning human flesh.
His ship made it safely home to Norfolk, Virginia, on Christmas Eve 1972. After his tour with the US Marines off the coast of Vietnam, Hunley had a much greater appreciation for the value of a college education. He came home, finished his degree and began a career of service in the field of education.
Thank you Larry J. Hunley of Buffalo, New York for your service to your country in war and peace.