Skip to comments.California man killed in Iraq after losing 150 pounds to enlist
Posted on 07/11/2004 5:34:51 PM PDT by wagglebee
WILDOMAR When Justin Hunt first tried to join the Marine Corps, the recruiters didn't have a scale that could weigh him.
So they simply estimated that he was more than 150 pounds above the maximum limit to join the service.
Hunt, a hulking athlete then two years out of high school, didn't let that stop him. He worked out hard, changed his diet and shed the pounds so he could enlist.
Now his family is trying to hold on to the memories of that hard-charging year as they grieve for the 22-year-old lance corporal who was killed in an explosion Tuesday in western Iraq.
"I want everybody to know what a great guy he was," his mother, Debbie, said as friends and relatives comforted her at the family home in Wildomar, a community about 75 miles east of Los Angeles.
Amid preparations for a military funeral, the Marine's family shared letters, photos and memories of a young man who embraced military life.
"He loved being on a team, fighting for a goal," his mother said. "That was his personality."
When he first approached a recruiter in 2002, Hunt was large but not completely out of shape. A dozen trophies in the living room attest to his high school accomplishments in baseball, wrestling and football.
Still, he wasn't Marine-fit. The recruiters estimated that the 6-footer weighed as much as 390 pounds, though they couldn't be sure because the scale only went up to 350.
"The recruiters were pretty taken aback by how big I was," he said in a 2003 interview with The Chevron, a newspaper that serves the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. "But they were still willing to work with me to help me do what I had to do to become a Marine."
That involved a lot of early morning runs through his semi-rural community in Riverside County, sometimes accompanied by a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Zach Delellis, family members said.
"Any time he would get down and feeling like he might not want to do it, that recruiter was down here getting him out of bed," recalls his father, Tom.
With a diet high in proteins, low in carbohydrates and as little junk food as possible, he got down to 207 pounds, just two pounds below the maximum allowed for his height. During boot camp in San Diego, he lost another 30 pounds and began telling his family that he wanted to be a drill instructor.
Letters home from his base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the Middle East were filled with gung-ho descriptions of military life and some bravado. "Nothing will happen to me because I got my 'Jesus hellfire' around me," he wrote from Iraq.
His father smiled at the sentence. "He tried to project a tough-guy image but deep down he was a softy," he said. His mother agreed, noting his fondness for small dogs, especially Chihuahuas.
In another letter, Hunt mentioned re-enlisting in the Marine Corps reserve, going to college and becoming an FBI agent. He talked about getting serious with Kerry Murphy, a woman he met while stationed at Camp Lejeune.
"I love the Marines, but I don't want all the deployments to ruin the relationship that Kerry and I have," he wrote.
The couple began dating in January and were preparing to meet each other's parents. "He just had all these plans that he wanted to do with his life," Murphy said.
The Marine's parent's learned about Hunt's death from their eldest son, who is in the Navy and deployed to the Middle East. He is accompanying his brother's body home.
Debbie supports the military action in Iraq but when another son, 19-year-old Travis, mentioned that he was considering joining the Army Reserve, she asked him to drop the idea.
"I understand why we're there, but I think I've given them enough," she said, her voice breaking. "I don't think we have to do anymore personally. I don't want to take a chance and have another one of my sons over there."
Poor kid. His bravery and service will not be forgotten, to those who care about him, and his brothers-in-arms, in the first place.
"He'll get an extra diamond in his crown when he gets to heaven."
God bless him.
God Bless Justin and his family...we will never be able to thank them enough for their sacrifice.
God Bless our Service members everywhere for what they do for our country.
God Bless President Bush and the USA!!!
God Bless You Justin Hunt, and your family.
Our county's finest men and women are now serving in the military. May God bless them throughout the eternities for their sacrifice in our behalf.
I want to do something to recognize this young man. I've been doing some research, and he lives just 75 miles east of L.A. Apparently he was a football star in high school and I was thinking we could have some kind of memorial put in there in his honor...a plaque, something. I don't know. I will do the work and do the contacting. Of course I would get his parent's permission, I thought it would be nice to have it given by our group, FreeRepublic. This story has touched me in a way that I didn't expect. How hard this man worked to defend his country...and then he dies. I'm doing to do alot of praying today, because it's days like this that make me question a whole lot more than I usually do. Let me know if there's interest in this. I'm going to do it with or without Free Republic.
Sorry, I ran a search on the title and missed it.
Look like a couple linked the thread, Hildy. Carry on and ping me when you get some details and where I can send my $$
I think this is a wonderful idea. Keep me posted on any progress you make.
Papers put different headlines on the same story.
I love Hildy's idea to do a Freeper memorial at this Marine's stadium.
Pray for W and Our Amazing Troops
I don't think this is something that should have FreeRepublic on it. That's too "commercial" for such a holy relic.
I just meant it should come from a group, instead of an individual. But just anonymous is fine with me. In fact, I like that better.
Putting FreeRepublic on it makes it look self serving to some, whether that was intended or not.
And we are part of the GratefulNation. Personally don't think a lot of libs are.
I live in California, so let me know if I can help. Okay? I will drive there if necessary
Fine, I just threw it out there. We can decide on the wording later. I personally think saying something like "FROM A GRATEFUL NATION" is a good thing. I wanted to get FR involved, that's all.
wowww in an earlier post he lost 200 pounds, I wonder how many pounds it will be tommorow?
There will also be many who support someone other than President Bush who too will have extra gems.
Listen to talk radio. They can't decide whether they want to go with the theme Kerry has no plan different than the President's or he will be soft on terrorism. C'mon guys which is it.
We can all see things from different perspectives. Doesn't mean eitehr is wrong. People better get used to that.
"I regret that I have but one life to give for my country."
Put me on your ping list. When you have something concrete in the works, I'll ping a couple hundred troop supporters for you.
Thank you. I will.
Right. All the veganpetafreaks will be blaming Atkins for this Rock 'N Roll Marine's death. Semper Fi, Marine!
Me? 30 lbs down since January on Atkins and exercise. Holding steady. 9 pounds heavier than I was when I was commissioned in 1971. My old flight suit from GW I is actually baggy.
How does someone 390 lbs play baseball? That said, God's mercy on him and for his family
Yes, absolutely. I live in Los Angeles, and would like to join with any tribute.
Please PING me when you get some information. I would like to go to the football game where that presentation is made, as one who supports our President, our country and the brave people, like this kid, who gives his life so we who remain CAN enjoy things...like a football game...and more importantly, FREEDOM!!!
Again, please let me know.
p.s. People like this kid, and on the other side of the age spectrum (Bruce Willis), kinda take away the excuse of "I can't do this because...", don't they?
He went to Elsinore High School and graduated in 2000. I have an address for a Deborah Hunt in Elsinore. I think I'll wait a few days and see if there will be a memorial service for this young man and I'll try to go. Elsinore is not far from where I live. If not, I'll write a letter and try to make contact rather than calling. I don't know, what do you think? I want to clear everything with the parents before I even start thinking about what we can do. I'd like to ask them what they think he would have liked. We'll do our best.
Heavens' honor guard has a new recruit.God bless him and his family.Semper Fi