Carl Hunsinger of Palmetto, chairman of the Manatee County Veterans Council, was among 20 vets inducted into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame this week in Tallahassee.
Hunsinger, 63, a retired U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant and veteran of 26 months of combat service in Iraq and Kuwait, was the only Manatee County resident among the 20 inductees honored by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet.
“I was surprised when I got the call that I had been selected about 9 a.m. one morning around Thanksgiving,” Hunsinger said. “I said, ‘What?’ ”
In 2004, he led a team of 160 enlisted airmen providing gun truck security in Mosul, Iraq.
“We used Vietnam video on how they did it as part of our training,” Hunsinger said.
Hunsinger was in Mosul when one of the American dining facilities was bombed, killing 24 and wounding 70 others.
Later, he served as command sergeant major for the 17th Combat Support Battalion.
His combat service also included Operation Southern No Fly-Zone in Kuwait in 1999 and in Iraq and Kuwait in 2007-2008.
After retiring from 30 years of service in the Air Force, Hunsinger worked as a logistics consultant, started a DJ business, called Fireball Music Entertainment, and served as division manager for Manatee County Area Transit.
In addition to serving three terms as chair of the Manatee County Veterans Council, he serves as the organization’s webmaster, as a charter member of Goodwill Manasota Veterans Task Force, and serves on the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Scholarship Committee.
He also took an idea first proposed by Chris Nothdurft to study Manatee County’s veterans population and presented it to USF Sarasota-Manatee. USFSM is now collecting data on local veterans, which will be the most extensive look at local veteran demographics and wellness ever completed. Hunsinger serves on the project steering group and acts as subject matter expert.
Collaborating on the study are Eric Hodges, a professor of interdisciplinary social science, Thomas Becker, a business professor, and Ramakrishna Govindu, an instructor of information systems and decision sciences.
Hunsinger was chosen by Jewish Children’s and Family Services as a recipient of the Tribute to Veterans Annual Award earlier this year.
Lee Washington, Manatee County veterans service officer, accompanied Hunsinger to Tallahassee this week for the hall of fame ceremony.
“I was moved by the ceremony,” Washington said. “The inductees were old, young, men, women, black, white and Hispanic. Everyone was represented. Every branch of the service and every rank from enlisted to admiral.”
Anyone who knows of a deserving veteran can go to floridaveteranshalloffame.org/index_Web.html. Nominations for the next class of Hall of Fame veterans will be accepted Jan. 1-May 31, 2019.
“There are definitely some very deserving veterans who live in Manatee County,” Washington said.
Hunsinger, who was accompanied by his adoptive father, Angus T. McDowell, 82, called the induction a humbling experience.
“This is testimony to all of our veterans of the Suncoast and the huge team of veteran supporters,” Hunsinger said.
Legislation to create the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame was passed in the 2011 legislative session by Rep. Gayle Harrell of Stuart and then-Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton. The first induction ceremony was held in 2013, said Jessica Hunter, liaison for the hall of fame.