(Taken from www.statesman.com) Jason Dean Hunt was a soft-spoken guy: respectful, polite, loyal to his family, "a homebody." He wasn't the type to draw attention to himself at school. He didn't play football, didn't hunt. In high school, Hunt was voted "most quiet" of his senior class.
Hunt grew up in a quiet place: Tipton, Okla. It's in the southern part of the state, west of Lawton.
By car, it's four songs on the radio north of Texas, north of the Red River.
Tipton was a big cotton town, once. The town had a cotton gin, a co-op, a grain elevator. But the co-op is gone now. There are more commuters than cotton farmers.
About 1,000 people live in Tipton, more or less. Downtown, there's a bank, a senior center, a flower shop. Everybody shops at the Hop N' Sack.
Hunt was raised on the outskirts of Tipton by his single mother, Gale Hunt.
His older sister, Leila, now lives in Killeen. His maternal grandparents, who live in Frederick, near Tipton, are respected greyhound breeders.
As a boy, Hunt had a gentle streak. He liked computers and computer games. In high school, he was granted permission to skip the dissection session — it was a cat — in biology class.
"That was very much his nature," recalled Kathy Gray, an administrator for Tipton schools whose daughter Hannah was in the same graduating class. "I can't see him ever wanting to harm an animal, the blood and guts involved."
Hunt enlisted in the Army right out of high school, in 2005. Brenda Shaffer, his high school counselor, was not surprised.
"He was somebody that I think thought he could make a difference in something," she said. "And this is what he chose."
Hunt told his family that he wanted to make a career in the military. He did a tour in Iraq but did not talk about it much. He was quiet, so quiet.
He told his sister that his commitment was such that he was prepared to jump in front of a bullet to save the life of a child, a stranger, a fellow soldier. He blended in, that's exactly what he did.
Two months before he was killed — on Thursday, at age 22, in the tragedy at Fort Hood — J.D. Hunt got married. Although he was soon to be deployed to Iraq, Hunt had bought a house. His wife, Jenna, was getting ready to leave Oklahoma City and move in there.
"In a small town, people are close. So even if you don't know a kid, you clearly recognize him as one of our kids," said Gray, who is the sister of former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd.
"There's an awareness here that this kid put his life on the line and made the ultimate sacrifice for his country," Gray said.
"We're proud of him not for his sacrifice, actually, but for his service. We're proud of him for what he was willing to do and devastated that's what was required for him to do his job."
On Friday evening, Hunt's sister took a long-distance call in southern Oklahoma — and in exhaustion, she explained that the family simply couldn't do it, they couldn't talk one more time about her dead brother. All that could be managed was a quick acknowledgement of sorrow.
And then Leila Willingham began to cry, before she could even utter the word "goodbye."