September 29, 2013


It seems we go "up north" a LOT!  Oh wait, we DO!!!  This weekend's trip was another having to do with Denzel.

Dad and I had originally planned to leave on Friday, but things changed.  Instead of leaving Friday, I took Amelia and Dezmond, and one of my piano students (Audrey Godfrey), and another neighbor girl (McKenna Staheli) horseback riding!!  And then Friday evening was spent at home, relaxing, having a late dinner, moving/organizing stuff in the garage, and then sleeping in on Saturday morning!!!  (Yes, 7:00 is sleeping in!!)  Dad and I did some yard work, played with Jaida, then Dad went to the Swiss Days Parade with Nat and I went to Colin Ence's (piano student) soccer game.  I'm SO glad I did.  His father had to be in the parade (he's a city councilman), and his siblings went to the parade with the grandparents, so mom and baby sister were the only ones at his game.  But then his PIANO TEACHER came to watch him play.
During a timeout he came over to give me a hug, and I told him "You will ALWAYS be more important than Swiss Days!!"  And he played a great game!

After the parade and game, Nat and I went horseback riding...just the two of us.  That doesn't happen very often and we really enjoyed our ride out to Snow Canyon!  When we got back, Nat helped me plant a bunch of broccoli and cauliflower in the community should have been done two weeks ago, but I just keep running out of time.  Hopefully it will be "blessed" and catch up in the growth department before it gets too cold!!

Dad and I FINALLY got on the road a little after 6 in at the Springville Barton's after 10, watched some football, then headed to bed.

  Sunday we went to church in Salt Lake City with the Madsen's.  Erika came up from BYU, too, so that was a lot of fun.  They loved meeting Jaida, and Zeus seemed to enjoy her, too!  We had dinner with Kent, Trish, Dane and Erika after church.  It was delicious, and we felt bad we had to rush...but we only had 30 minutes to get down to Camp Williams...we made it with two minutes to spare!

There were two empty chairs next to a woman also wearing a gold star, so Rod and I sat by her, and I asked about her son.  He had died in April of this year.  I put my arms around her and said, "Ohhhh, I'm so sorry.  You're still raw!!"

We talked a bit here and there after the meeting began, and I discovered she was there alone because her husband had to be in Logan with a couple of their other children.  What a brave woman Pat Gannon is!  Her son died in a firearms accident at a base back East.  He had recently enlisted.  Sad!  Pat spoke just before I did.

The entire event was wonderful!!  I'm so glad Sean Colmenero said, "Mom!  You're going!!" when I was initially hesitant about making yet another trip to Salt Lake, and having to deal with MORE emotions.  It was good to hear different stories of military sons, the loss felt by their families, and to feel the camaraderie of each other.  There were several patriotic musical numbers performed by the City Church Worship Band, and they were each very well done.  And I enjoyed being able to talk about Denzel.  I hope it was beneficial to others there.

When we first walked in, there was a black couple ahead of us.  The mom did not speak in the meeting, but I noticed she and her husband were wearing Gold Stars.  I made my way over to them after the program.  They were kind of hanging back, not really talking with anyone.  I said, "You didn't speak, but I would really like to hear your story."  I am SO glad I did.  There are details I can't really write about in a public forum, but I felt very honored that they would share their story with me.  Life can be VERY hard at times!!  I invited them to come to St. George...we need to do a therapy ride...or twenty!!!  And I was reminded, again, how important it is to FORGIVE!!

Dad and I enjoyed talking with so many people after the event, AND we got to see the 9/11 Memorial that is making its way across the country.  There was a HUGE American flag over the semi-truck carrying the memorial and the 7 ton chunk of one of the Twin Towers.  It was rather impressive.  And the Marine bulldog, "Gunner" was impressed that Jaida was there, too!  *_*

Well, that about sums it up.  Another great experience...reminding us how much we love, and miss, Denzel!!

* * * *

Ssg. Roderick Denzel Hunt was born November 17, 1980, in Provo, Utah.  He died April 29th, 2012 in Riverton, Utah.  He was the oldest of 7 the seven children born to my husband, Rod, and myself.

We should have known from an early age that Denzel would do well in the military.  At three and four years old he would throw rocks like all the other kids.  The only difference is he would HIT HIS TARGET, whether it be the neighbor’s brand new truck when it was driving by, or the friend’s older brother who threw rocks at Denz, but missed.  It seems we were always having to apologize to someone for Denzel’s uncanny ability to hit that at which he aimed.

When he was a teenager, the big fad was paintball guns.  Denzel dreamed of owning one like all of his friends.  He was sure he would never get one because we didn’t have a lot of money, but he still wrote a letter to “Santa”  (at 14 years of age!) telling him how badly he wanted that gun.  Denzel wrote some journal entries, which I recently came across, dated December of 1994…EIGHT in all describing how much he wanted the paintball gun, how he didn’t think he’d get it, how he hinted at it…tried to plant all kinds of ideas in his parents’ head, etc.  And then, his Christmas Eve entry detailed how his parents hadn’t given any indication about buying a paintball gun, but there was “still a chance” he might get it.  Later he wrote about Christmas morning…waiting for the parents to get up, looking through the wrapped presents for the right-sized box, and the disappointment of not getting the gun.  However, when he opened a small present, it contained a gun barrel; the next present held the hand grip, another had the site, and on and on.  He got his paintball gun, and he wrote how it was the best Christmas ever!

The downside of the paintball gun was Denzel's subsequent target shooting practice!  He used Brandon, his 11 year old brother. . . and Denzel didn’t miss then, either.

Fast forward over the years and Denzel joined the 222nd Field Artillery, also known as the Triple Deuce in St. George, Utah.  He found a great niche with this unit, and it became his second family.  He loved when they would have “family day” at the armory so he could show his family all the cool stuff he got PAID to do.  He especially enjoyed showing off “THE GUN.”  I made the mistake, once, of calling it a tank.  Denzel explained nicely, but firmly, “Mom, it’s NOT a tank…it is a GUN.”

And then came several deployments.  The first was to help with security for the Olympics.  It was fun to travel up north for this once-in-a-lifetime event, AND to see our son serving his country at the same time. 
The second deployment was stateside, then the third deployment came and off to Iraq he went.  

We always kept an open communication, and war was no different.  The first email we received from our son told a little about his flight to Iraq, and that he was there.  Then it proceeded to say, “Now, if you’re going to freak out about stuff…DON’T READ THE REST OF THIS EMAIL.”

Of course, I read the rest of the email which told of an incoming missile  that apparently wasn't “that close,” but due to them being new in-country and in an actual war zone, he and his buddies all hit the ground like they had been taught.  The only damage done was to their egos…as all the other guys who were used to this day in and day out occurrence just looked at the guys on the ground and said, “Yeah, they’re new!” and went on their way.

I thought the incident rather humorous, but I responded to the initial statement about “freaking out.”  I boldly said in all CAPS:  “DO YOU KNOW YOUR MOTHER???  DO I FREAK OUT ABOUT STUFF???  NO!!  I WANT DETAILS!!” 

My feeling was, all of these guys are in the same boat, going through the same, sometimes harrowing, experiences.  And as a mother, I KNEW my son would need to de-brief at times and not worry that his mom would freak out if he told her some tough stuff.  And he did need to debrief! 

One of Denzel's phone calls was about the
high-tension cable that snapped, nearly decapitating 
TJ Larsen, as Denzel watched!  Very traumatic for both!!
There were times it was just nice for him to call home and tell us about his activities.  Other times he needed to talk.   Sometimes he’d call and say, “I’m okay…I just need to tell you what happened today.”  One time he called and said, “We just got attacked by a suicide bomber.  We’re okay, but this guy blew himself up by our mess tent…and, well, I just needed to hear your voice.”

Denzel saying good-bye before his second deployment to Iraq in 2011
One very memorable phone call told about the 90 minute drive from his foot patrol assignment to the military base.  This was always a very dangerous drive.  One day Denzel’s unit was 15 minutes behind the convoy in front of them, which was standard procedure, leaving little time between convoys.  As his unit traveled on high alert for IED’s, Denzel spotted a body lying in the road.   He radioed ahead and the front convoy had not seen a body in the same area.  Following protocol, the unit kept their distance and radioed for the bomb squad to come. 

One of Denzel’s guys asked permission to “just hook onto the body and pull it out of the road” so they could continue on.  Denz later told me, “Mom, I just had the worst feeling when I considered going and dragging the body out of the way.  So, I waited for the bomb guys to get there.  Sure enough, it turns out the ‘body’ was a dummy rigged with a bunch of explosives.  If we would have tried to move it, the remote detonator would have been set off and it would have killed whoever tried to move it.”

I was so glad for his safety, but I was also grateful that he could call and talk to me and his father about difficult things.

Now, the last month of Denzel’s life we talked nearly every day.  Denzel had returned from his second deployment to Iraq a few months previous, and continued teaching as an Instructor at Camp Williams.   He was dealing with some difficult things.  He wanted to get help, but told me, “Mom, I can’t until I get my Lieutenant commission.  I’ll have it in a few weeks, then I can get some help.”

Well, a series of events escalated on Sunday, April 29th, and he ended his life.  He had two weeks until his commission went through…but it was two weeks too late.

All those who knew and loved Denzel have missed him every day since that awful night.  However, we also know that a tremendous amount of good has come about because of the things learned after his death and because of his death.

The pain of losing our son has been extreme.  We love him.  We miss him.  But his death has also made our hearts more compassionate to others who have experienced loss in their lives.  No, it’s not the “same” for anyone, but it is loss, and we have extra empathy for all those who get hit with this extremely difficult experience.  God bless each of you.

September 26, 2013


Because I do Elder Hunt's blog each week, I sometimes simply run out of time to do everything I would like to.  Imagine that!  However, there are some things that should NOT be left unrecorded, so, here goes!!

Up until Denzel's death, he worked as an instructor at Camp Williams alongside his very close friend, Ssg. Shaun Tucker.  Since Denzel's death, there was a push at the base to name each classroom after a noteworthy military individual.

Due to the impact Denzel had had on the base and a lot of the training he was involved in, the program changes he improved and implemented, and due to the work that Ssg Shaun Tucker put into it to make this a reality, the classroom that Ssg Tucker currently teaches in was designated and named the R. Denzel Hunt Classroom of Excellence.

What a special tribute and honor!!  It was very thoughtful and meaningful to Rod and I just to know that they would think to do something like this.  We also appreciated the efforts Dan and Janet Barton put in to making the large poster-sized photograph and write-up used in the classroom!

On Friday, September 13th, Rod and I drove up to Camp Williams in Draper.  We had been invited by Ssg Shaun Tucker.  He's an instructor there and  as part of the course he teaches, he requires each student to do a 5 minute presentation on a deceased military personnel, worthy of emulation.

During this particular cycle, Shaun has had a particularly "on-the-ball" student that he has been very impressed with, and he allowed him (Sgg. Durrant) to do his presentation on Denzel. Rod and I were honored to be invited to the classroom presentation.  Even though it meant Rod took a day off of work to be at the base in Draper by 2:00 p.m., there was no way we would have missed this!

Ssg Tucker met us outside the building on the base, and we walked upstairs together and into the classroom.

The students were just returning from a break, and we were warmly greeted by people we had met at Denzel's funeral as well as the students in the class.

 Before things got started, a picture of Denzel was put up on the screen, and when I looked up and saw my son there, it instantly brought tears to my eyes.  I was quickly reaching for my purse and my stash of tissues as I mentioned to no one and yet everyone with a joking tone, "Oh this is NOT a good sign!!"  It was very emotional for both Rod and I, but in a good way.  What a special honor it was for us to be there and to share our son and his military career with these students and many other military personnel who crowded into the classroom.

  When Ssg. Durrant  finished the presentation, which was VERY well done, Ssg. Tucker asked if Rod and I had anything we'd like to add.  (I wasn't sure if we would be asked to contribute, but I had grabbed a couple of pictures, "just in case."  I'm glad I did.)

 I passed around our "last family picture" with Denzel in it.  I wanted each person there to know very clearly that Denzel was an important part of our family.  He was (and is) loved more than can be expressed.

I next held up, then passed around,  our "marathon picture," showing Denzel, Brandon, Kristy, Amelia and me running the 2007 St. George Marathon.  (Denzel had only run one 5-mile training run as his prep for the marathon.)  Amazingly, we all finished together, hands interlaced with each other's as  we all crossed the
finish line together.  I related how there were times that the girls wanted to go ahead, because they had trained, but  we managed to stay together and helped pace each other.  Just like our very close family, the military family sticks together, pushes each other onward and helps achieve excellence together.

I then related a few incidents from Denzel's first deployment to Iraq, the accuracy of their fire missions, and how the Marines would specifically request their fire missions to be given to the 222nd because of their extreme accuracy. At first I couldn't quite grasp how "firing the gun" could be that difficult.  So Denz putting it in terms that I could relate to.  He said, "Mom, imagine that our gun [looked like a TANK to me, but it's called a GUN] was parked at our house.  Now you aim it north towards Pine Valley.  Your mission is to hit the Veyo pool, which is approximately 30 miles away.  You fire, and come within 10 yards of the pool, obliterating it!!  That's basically what we do."  And that's how I started to understand just how well-trained Denzel was in his military responsibilities.  Like he said to me, "You KNOW you're good when the MARINES request you!!"

After a few of these personal stories, I related a bit about how Denzel died.  Due to substance abuse, and the wrong set of circumstances combining into "the perfect storm," he ended his life.  I briefly suggested to these young men and women that any substance that changes the way you think, and takes control of your mind and body, is NOT the way to go.  "And IF you have a problem in this area, GET HELP NOW!!!  Do NOT put it off.  You never know when it may be too late!"

Then Rod spoke briefly, thanking everyone for their love and support and our appreciation for the great respect we have felt from everyone.
Talking with Ssg. Durrant afterward
Denzel's former was a bit emotional for us to see where Denzel was sitting so many times when we would call and talk to him when he was at "work."  Could almost feel him right there with us!!

It was a memorable, emotional, good, and a little difficult experience.  Thank you SO MUCH Shaun Tucker!!!  Thank you for loving and respecting our son in such a way as to honor him with a Classroom of Excellence in his name.  No matter what changes may be made in the future, WE will never forget it!

September 2, 2013

Camping at Kolob Reservoir!

Dad and I were invited to join the Sand Hollow Yacht Club on an overnight sailing expedition at Kolob Reservoir.  It sounded like a fun get-away so as soon as Dad got home from school, and I stopped whining about the 3 questions I missed on my first psychology quiz (22/25...), we headed northward...into the great billowing cloud covered mountains to the northeast of St. George.  It was incredibly beautiful, and we figured we might be in for a downpour.  We were!!  And we had a GREAT adventure!!







September 1, 2013


This month has been a busy one, lots of different things going on, but that never seems to stop my brain from kicking into gear about lots of different things.

Due to some events that will go unnamed I have thought a lot about myself...kinda second-guessing...which isn't necessarily a good thing, or a bad thing.  I guess it just depends on where it takes you.  Of late I have thought that in a few different situations I may have said or done the wrong thing.  And that has caused some sore contemplation.

 I have said aloud a few times, "I feel like a blundering idiot!"  I know that isn't necessarily true or productive, but it is a statement of my feelings.  And the verbalization that: I don't KNOW, from an educational point of view, things I wish I knew.    Or perhaps I do, and just don't know that I know it.  Either way I have felt a bit inept, psychologically speaking.

Maybe none of this makes sense to anyone else (other than my husband, who has always been a good sounding board), but I suddenly felt inspired to "take a psychology class."  I just wish the inspiration could have come ONE DAY EARLIER...then I wouldn't have had to pay the $50 late fee that began the day I registered!  Rats!!!  Oh well, at least I'm doing it.  I won't go into all the details of the sections of class I went to the first couple of days, and changing of classes, to find the ONE class I should be taking this semester.   But I did find it, and I'm enjoying the academic educational process.  If for no other reason than discovering through book learning the many things I have learned through life living!!  It's amazing!  The things I just "know."  But my professor is VERY good at explaining things and helping piece everything together!

I guess the thing I've learned, continue to learn, through this is that it's's look inside ourselves and see what needs to be changed.  Maybe it's nothing BAD or a sin...but still some growth that needs to take place.  Maybe there have been lots of people praying that someday I'll "get it" and perhaps that day is coming.  Until then, I continue to stumble along, with everyone else, and try to do the best I can.