Lawrence man still working on Army’s tanks

The last time we visited with Darrell Hunsaker, he was home visiting his parents in Lawrence while on leave from the U.S. Army. He had been in Iraq for nearly a year and would have to return when his leave was over. That was in November and December 2004.Darrell and his father, Sam Hunsaker, collaborated to make Darrell’s visit a surprise for his mother, Robin Hunsaker. One evening dad took mom to Perkins Restaurant, 1711 W. 23rd, to eat. Sitting in a nearby booth with his back turned to his parents was Darrell. When the time was right he got up, walked over to his mom and gave her the surprise of her life.Also sitting in nearby booths were Journal-World and 6News reporters and photographers, cameras and notebooks well hidden, waiting to record the moment.Darrell Hunsaker made news again at the end of his leave when he tried making plans to fly back to Iraq. He called a special phone number the Army had given him to make those plans.The number connected him to the Psychic Friends Hotline.I still remember working on that story and calling a Pentagon spokesman for comment about Darrell’s situation. There was a silence followed by a huge sigh.Darrell did make it back to Iraq and rejoined the 1st Cavalry Division and went back to work recovering and repairing damaged tanks and other vehicles. He is in Iraq again now, this time as a civilian contract worker for General Dynamics, the maker of the M1A1-A2 main battle tank used by the Army and Marines.Darrell is working on new armor for the tanks and helping to make them safer in other ways, his father said. It’s all part of Operation TUSK, an acronym for Tank Urban Survival Kit. He also works on improving armor for other vehicles.General Dynamics recruited Darrell because the company heard how good he was with tanks, Sam Hunsaker said.”He just wanted to do more,” Sam said. “When he was going out and retrieving tanks with his M-88 (tank recovery vehicle) and was pulling them back and repairing them, he saw the damage that was being done. He saw friends injured. He knew all the weak spots on the tank and he wanted to fix it up.”He’s of course making more money and General Dynamics has more resources,” Sam Hunsaker added.We want to know about people in the military from the Douglas County area. Where are they deployed? When will they come home? What are their experiences? What are families here at home facing? If you are currently in the military and want to communicate with us, that’s fine, too. Please send me an e-mail.