My hometown: A veteran’s perspective
I am proud to say I am from Danville, Kentucky. After graduating from Danville High School in 1984, I spent 27 years, two-months, and 14 days serving our nation in the United States Air Force. After my retirement from active duty, I spent an additional 18 months in Afghanistan as a defense contractor. Why do I mention this? It is because I am a product of Danville, Kentucky. I had the opportunity to travel all over the world, and everywhere I went, everyone knew about Danville, Kentucky!
I mentioned I traveled all over the world to defend freedom. I want to state that despite our problems in America, we are blessed to live in this nation. No matter the state you’re from or the community you grew up in, please realize you are blessed.
There has been so much attention on race and other issues since the death of George Floyd and others. My intent is not to minimize any of these deaths. But as a Black American, I am so grateful to realize that I know my life matters, and that’s because of the community that I was raised in, and the foundations of a successful military career were born here in Danville, Kentucky.
Mrs. Virginia Graham (Biles), Mrs. Lucy Stevens, Ms. Bertha Bowman, Mrs. Brenda Ellis, Mrs. Artie Atkins, Mr. Buddy Edwards, Mr. Don Peden, (some of my teachers at Danville High School – both Black and white, even though that should not matter), my church family (at the time The Church of God of America) and my immediate family always taught and challenged me that I could do anything, not based on the color of my skin, but by the gifts that God had blessed me with. People saw things in me then that I did not see, and the same throughout my military career. I was taught to work hard, to continue my education, love, and respect everyone, to love God, and through this, I could achieve whatever I wanted to. One of my teachers at Danville High School, Mrs. Barbara Rynearson, never would allow her students to say “Can’t!” I still remember the handwritten note on the chalkboard: “Can’t Means Won’t.” I thank God every day for my upbringing here in Danville.
I have seen the slaughter of individuals because of ethnic and religious differences. I was deployed overseas during the Kosovo Conflict – Allied Force in 1999 (ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslavia province of Kosovo). I saw fellow Muslims kill each other, and some of my fellow servicemen during my tour in Iraq in 2007 and suicide bombers killing their own countrymen, women and children in Afghanistan.
I have seen firsthand the results of hatred, racism, prejudices, and biases. My thoughts are America, Kentucky, and Danville, we are better than the issues we differ on! We are better together. As our state motto says: United We Stand, Divide We Fall. I know there are both black and white Americans that care deeply for their communities. To be truthful, we all have some type of prejudices and biases. Those should never overcome the good that is in us all. We must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). I believe there is HOPE! That hope is illustrated every day in my hometown of Danville.
Hope when we can host the first African American female lieutenant governor of Kentucky addressing the annual NAACP banquet.
Hope when a young African American man can establish an organization called Don’t Sleep, and host an annual block party that reaches thousands of young people.
Hope when a group of pastors (regardless of race or denomination) can form an organization that targets one of the greatest crises our nation has faced this century … substance use disorder, mentor kids in our elementary schools, and celebrate addiction recovery.
Hope when a local church can sponsor “Two Sparrows” – fun in the park at Jackson Park.
Hope when Boyle County ASAP (Agency for Substance Abuse and Policy) can work to educate our community on substance use disorder, mental health issues, suicide prevention, and overdose awareness, and expungement fairs (to help educate ex-offenders on working to get the criminal records expunged.)
Hope when Kentucky Prayer Coalition can sponsor “Praise and Prayer” in our community parks.
Hope when one of our local treatment facilities receives a “Second Chance” grant to provide reentry services to those who are incarcerated in our local jail.
Hope when in 2018, local pastors and lay members came together to discuss racial reconciliation and to begin to build a relationship based on trust and not mistrust due to our own biases and prejudices.
I know other organizations are doing good to bring awareness to other issues.
The aforementioned events have all happened since I returned to my hometown of Danville in November of 2015. I am blessed to be part of it all! To see people come together for the good of their community – regardless of our differences is something to be proud of!
Danville, I truly believe that we are better than the hate that I have seen overseas, and even in our own nation. Let us all rise to our “Better Angels” that are within us and become a beacon for good and hope!
Will you join one of your native sons, and be a conduit of change and hope?
James M. Hunn
The opinions expressed are solely mine and in no way reflect the opinions of any organization that I am affiliated with.