Tuesday, March 16, 2010

RIP, U.S. Navy Senior Chief Dawn Hunter

One of my closest friends in the Navy died this past weekend at the age of 37, far too young for someone so vibrant; of ever-positive outlook; so energetic and she, sadly has left behind so many who loved, respected and cherished her friendship, leadership and mentorship.

Ask anyone who knew Dawn and they would tell you she wore a smile brighter than the sunniest day--her warm comfortable smile and infectious laugh made you feel good knowing it was meant just for you.

I met then IT1 Dawn Hunter, like the rest of us when we reported for duty for Navy Customs Battalion PAPA in Norfolk, Va., at NMPS and later I got to know her even better while we were berthed (housing) at that rundown Clarion Hotel as we trained at NAVELSG's training grounds in Williamsburg, Va.

Dawn and I were in the same training team and became instant friends. I remember our first formation with us standing side-by-side. And the rest is, shall we say history. Senior Chief Kat Hotmer and Chief Joe Villa, our senior enlisted leaders, whipped us all into shape preparing us for the unexpected when we would step aboard that plane leading us to those hot sands of Kuwait.

During this period it was then I learned Dawn and I shared a love of running. One day we both decided we should starting a running club. It started with just the two of us, but soon blossomed to seven or eight of us running down the dark streets of Williamsburgh at 0500 .

During our six-mile runs we talked, shared philosophies, talked about our friends, families, pets (Dawn talked of her dogs and I of my cats) and other things that helped strengthen our friendship. Later as we neared the end of our training in Virginia, Dawn and few others arranged a small party in my honor on August 5, 2005. It was my 48th birthday and for me, a milestone as both my Dad and Granddad died at the young age of 47. Dawn knew I was nervous about this birthday and I'll never forget that night of fun and bad Mexican food (and me under a huge sombrero). Master Chief Powers, Chief Hatch, Chief Villa and Senior Chief Shindledecker even sang an acappella 'Happy Birthday to me'... and I owed it all to Dawn!

Dawn was always upbeat, always there for a friend, always caring and someone who could always be counted on for a word of advice. I know this will sound cliche, but she cared for everybody and would do anything to help them out.

When we arrived at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, we didn't see as much of each other. Dawn in HQ Company and me in Alpha, our schedules rarely meshed, still we found time to run on occasion, but more often than not, just to sit around and shoot the bull or share an occasional meal.

As our tour came to end in the spring of 2006, I had made my mind to stay behind with Customs Battalion QUEBEC, so I had to let my friends go back to the United States while I, and 30 others stayed behind to help the next group perform our customs mission. Dawn, again was the voice of encouragement.

Even with my friends from PAPA gone, I remained in touch with Dawn and was pleased to learn when she advanced to Chief Petty Officer. Was I surprised? Absolutely not! Dawn never did anything halfway and when she was pinned I wished I could have been there.

In the intervening five years since we deployed I often received an email from Dawn and with the advent of Facebook we kept even more closely in touch. She sent me emails while I served in Afghanistan in 2008 and I, in turn, kept in touch with her when she once again went Active Duty. I often thought about those lucky Sailors who would benefit from her leadership.

Just two weeks ago Dawn and I chatted online for about an hour. We talked about our new directions, she asked me about my cats and I asked her about training for a marathon whe want to run (naturally) and as we closed our chat, she told me she looked forward to seeing my name on the new Chiefs list this year. Those were our last words, but not my last thoughts of her.

Even with 900 miles between us, Dawn still offered encouragement and advice, offering support and best of all... her friendship. I will treasure that friendship and my memories of her. I know when I do make Chief I will see Dawn in my mind and know that she is looking down on me and the rest of us, her friends and comrades of U.S. Navy Customs Battalion PAPA.

And every time I go out to enjoy a warm sunny day, I will reminisce about Dawn's smile and how it was meant for me and for every other soul she met and helped become a better person. Dawn, you and the rest of the members of Customs Battalion PAPA became a family that year. You were an important part of that 'Navy machine' and most importantly, a part of our lives--we made a difference. What more could someone want out of life?

Now, when I am out running, I will imagine you running there to my left as we did so many times in Virginia, and will think of the friendship we had and I will remember you fondly.

Dawn, I know I speak for all of us PAPAs when saying I respect you, love you and will miss you forever!

Senior Chief Kimberly Dawn Hunter, U.S. Navy Reserve, February 23, 1973 - March 13, 2010, RIP

U.S. Navy photos by MC1 Greg Devereaux
Civilian photos courtesy of Dawn Hunter's family and friends


  1. My thoughts are with you as you mourn the passing of your good friend. I emphasize with you even more, now that I am with my best military buddy in Va. Be well.

  2. Sorry about you losing your good friend.

  3. I am deeply saddened to learn of Kimberly Hunter's passing. I served with her for a short while with Navy Customs Papa. She was a wonderful and inspiring person in every way. She has left her mark on me and all whose lives she has touched. I was most encouraged by her intense workout regiment, her kind personality, and astounding leadership. May God bless you and keep you. -Ronnie Garner

  4. I served side-by-side with Dawn in Kuwait (2005-2006). No matter the time of day or night, Dawn had a smile that was way infectious. I never saw her get upset; she lived her life for the now, not worrying about the petty things. Dawn encouraged me daily while I was trying to lose some weight. Her encouragement was firm but gentle at the same time. She just had a way about her. Dawn was a strong, determined, dynamic woman who took pride in serving in the US Navy. You just knew she would accomplish anything she sent her mind on. I'm proud to have served with her and to have known her. RIP *Salutes*

    Jody Helter
    Personalman Second Class
    Camp Arifjan Kuwait 2005-2006

  5. I'm Dawn's brother James Gobble. We are creating a presentation for the memorial service on Friday. Please send me any and all pictures of Kimberly Dawn Hunter that you have ASAP. I hope to cover all aspects and as many friends as possible in the presentation. Semperfi1875@hotmail.com
    ~ James Gobble, Wilmington, North Carolina

  6. I'm a 911 dispatcher in High Point NC and dispatched Dawn. I'll miss cutting up with her on the radio/phone. I always called her Chief until recently when she was promoted to Senior. We were very stunned and saddened with the news, and she will be missed. She was a great person.
    Portia - at one time RP2(SCW),USN

  7. I love you Dawn and you will always be considered one of my best friends while we served together on the USS Simon Lake AS 33. You were motivated, driven and always remained humble in all that you did. I will never forget you. Thank you for the wonderful memories. May GOD BLESS and keep you. Goodbye my friend, but never, ever will you be forgotten.