Kane had the honor of accompanying Raymond Brunelle to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Kane found the experience to be very humbling.
Kane learned that Raymond Brunelle is no stranger to serving his country and local citizens of the Merrimack Valley. Raymond, known and loved by many as Hunter from his 25-year membership in the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club, was born in the year 1947 and graduated from Lowell High School. Kane knows Hunter as an expert in making the best French fries which he personally samples on the down low.
Hunter volunteered to join the Navy at the age of 20. Raymond was inspired by his grandfather, a World War I hero, who followed the footsteps of his great grandfather who also served. Volunteering to go to Vietnam was met with both pride and fear from his parents especially since Hunter was an only child. Raymond was assigned to a Navy post in Rhode Island; where he was often called an “old man “since his fellow sailors were 18 years old. Some sailors were volunteers, and many were drafted.
During Vietnam, Raymond was assigned to the Ship Mariposa along with 260 other sailors. The Mariposa carried artillery, ammunition, and bombs to the ports under the cover of darkness. These missions were always under threat of the Vietcong. In fact, due to the explosive nature of the weapons, the sailors were told there would be no way to move far enough away from the ship if it was hit, so their only option of survival would be to put a fire out on the ship. Kane reflected on the bravery of Raymond and his fellow sailors.
Hunter explained that the ship had two diesel engines that were two stories high, allowing the vessel to sail halfway around the world at 17 miles an hour. Kane thought wow that is pretty slow. He asked Hunter how long his sail back to the United States was? Raymond said it took two months with holes in the ship leaking water the entire trip back. Raymond explained when the vessel returned to port it was immediately taken out of service for being too dangerous to sail.
Although Hunter remains very proud of his service, the loss was very great. Kane observed Hunter take a piece of paper out of his vest listing the 11 people from the Greater Lowell area with their names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Hunter carries this information with him. One person very close to his heart is his childhood best friend Walter Lemieux who served in the Army during Vietnam. Specialist Fourth Class Lemieux served as a medic and was killed in battle. Hunter has stayed in contact with his family over the years and visits his Memorial in Lowell frequently.
In the above Vietnam Wall photo, you will see a picture of Hunter holding a picture of Colonel Sheldon John Burnett. Hunter explained to Kane that Sherman was considered Missing in Action for years until his remains were identified in 2005. Colonel Burnett was finally put to rest when his remains were identified, providing some closure to his family.
For the last 40 plus years Hunter has continued his service to the Veteran community through acts of kindness such as driving veterans to their healthcare appointments, and more formal events through the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club such as regular food drives, lunches at the local veteran homeless shelters, and fundraisers to benefit veteran outreach organizations. For decades Hunter has been a key member in organizing volunteers to help with the Paralyzed Veterans Association of America Fishing Derby.
Kane hopes when he is a senior dog, he will live his life with as much energy as Hunter. Thank you Raymond Brunelle for your service and dedication to your community. You are an inspiration to all.
Kane Peaslee, Columnist
Valley Patriot ◊