Whether it be in the U.S. Army, as a Moorhead police officer, Moorhead city councilman or a Veterans of Foreign Wars employee, Dan Hunt has dedicated most of his life to public service.
In the midst of the Vietnam War, Hunt received the piece of mail many of his generation dreaded: A draft notice. He wasted no time and enlisted into the Army, taking leave from his job as a Moorhead police officer. Despite being the son of a career Army officer, Hunt said he probably would not have enlisted had he not received the draft notice.
“But it helped me grow up a little bit and have a little discipline in my life,” said Hunt, who’s now 71 and works as gambling manager at the Dilworth VFW, Albert E. Johnson Post 1223.
Because of his father’s career, Hunt moved around quite a bit in his youth, arriving In Moorhead in his early teens, when his dad became the regional Army recruiting officer. After that assignment, his parents split. Hunt, his mother, and four siblings moved to Detroit Lakes, while his dad was reassigned to Korea.
Hunt graduated from high school in Detroit Lakes, then moved back to the Fargo-Moorhead area to attend Moorhead State College. Three years later, he quit school to become a Moorhead police officer and 18-months after that, he began his three year Army enlistment with basic and advanced individual training. The Army sent him to Detroit, where he was a part of a detachment that rounded up AWOLs – up to 15 to 20 a week.
AWOLs were a major problem in the Vietnam era, Hunt said. “In those days, they needed all the bodies we could get.”
When he was finished with his assignment in Michigan, Hunt headed for military police duties in Korea, an assignment he considered similar to working on a base in the U.S. “There were no hostilities. It was pretty easy compared to what they went through in Vietnam.”
That’s why he doesn’t believe he is worthy of attending an honor flight for veterans. “I don’t think I deserve it. I did my duty and I believe I did it well but I didn’t really go through the hardships that they went though … That’s some real hardship. That’s a lot of stress to go through day after day.”
After his three year enlistment, Hunt returned to Fargo-Moorhead. He was discharged as a E-5, a rank he credits to having a little college under his belt and the fact he “never got into any trouble.”
Hunt almost immediately returned to the ranks of the Moorhead Police Department, first serving as a patrol officer, then later, he underwent training at the University of Minnesota and wrote a grant to be the city’s first police-school liaison officer, a program that has only expanded through the years. Though he loved the interaction with at-risk youth, a promotion to lieutenant changed his duties to assistant shift commander. As he advanced in years of experience, his duties expanded to shift commander and then administrative commander, during which he reviewed and revised policy manuals and adapted a 14-week training program to Moorhead specifications. The courses were to make sure candidates had the right temperament and specific skills to be successful Moorhead cops.
“I don’t think that there’s anything special that I did,” Hunt said. “I think we accomplished a lot as a department. Society was changing and we had to keep up with the changes.”
Hunt retired as day shift commander in January 2004 after a 36 year career in law enforcement. He didn’t skip a beat, and continued to serve the public, this time as a councilman for Moorhead’s 3rd Ward, a seat he held for two four-year terms until 2012. As councilman, he focused on staffing issues at the fire and police departments. Though he left unfinished business when he was voted out in the 2011 election by Mike Hulett, he’s proud of the city’s accomplishments, particularly emergency management.
“I think we did a superb job during the floods,” Hunt said.
These days, as gambling manager overseeing pull tabs and Bingo at the Dilworth VFW, he has a new objective: Do as much as he can for the veterans with the money charitable gambling brings in.
“I enjoy the job,” Hunt said. “It gives me something to get up for every morning.”