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Surviving Iraq: A US Army grunt’s tale

Spc. Brian Hunsuck is the boy next door on the front lines: He lost a friend, nearly lost a leg, and still acts like Beaver Cleaver.

On patrol: Army Spc. Brian Hunsuck is a veteran of two tours in Iraq. He lost a friend to a roadside bomb and nearly lost a leg in another bomb blast.

Tom A. Peter

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Tom A. Peter spent a cumulative eight months during three embeds with the US Army’s 1-68 Combined Arms Battalion in Iraq between 2006 and 2008. He drew from his notebooks to profile a soldier he won’t forget.


Driving through Baghdad on a patrol, US Army Spc. Brian Hunsuck and his crew scan side streets for insurgents and any unusual activities. As the driver peers across Specialist Hunsuck in the truck commander’s seat, he gets a whiff of something strange punctuating the stale Humvee air: cherries.

“What the ... ?” sniffs the befuddled driver, Pfc. David Wulff, who’s more used to the scent of diesel exhaust, burning trash, or sewage on his neighborhood prowls.

Private Wulff looks over at Hunsuck just in time to see him finish dabbing on a cherry lip-gloss that Wulff initially thinks may have sparkles.

Unashamed, Hunsuck explains: “Someone sent me this chap stick [in a care package], so I may as well use it.”

With his goofy Beaver Cleaver idiosyncrasies and his Boy Scout-like goodness, Hunsuck is all at once the most typical and atypical soldier one can expect to find on the American front lines. He joined the military straight out of high school not out of patriotism or even to “be all that he could be.” Largely he did it to get out of the house – knowing full well he’d probably be shipped to Iraq or Afghanistan.


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