Roy Hunter, Veteran

Roy Hunter

Military service is a long-standing tradition in Roy Hunter’s family on both his father’s and his mother’s sides. His great-grandfather served in World War I, and his father and several uncles served during World War II and the Korean War. Roy and his son have continued this proud tradition in the U.S. Navy.

As a 17-year-old just out of Bixby High School, Roy wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but being raised in a military family had shown him how important serving his country could be. His relatives shared stories of their time overseas and fighting in WWII and Korea, and Roy was captivated by them. He knew joining the military would be the right decision for him.

“They were very proud of the fact that they had served our country,” he said of his family’s influence on his decision to join the U.S. Navy. “It was a good place for a young man to be.”

Roy Hunter

It was such a good place to be that Roy stayed for the next 20 years, eventually working his way up to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, a rare distinction.

Achieving the Master Chief rank goes far beyond knowing how to do an assigned job. There are no tests one can take to demonstrate knowledge at that level. It’s all about “walking the walk,” showing competent leadership skills and integrity. The promotion then comes after a review from a board made of peers and other officers.

At the end of his 20-year military career, Roy was looking for his next adventure. He had always felt drawn to the education field, and as Master Chief, he enjoyed working with young sailors in the navy. He also has a long family history of teachers and school administrators, like he does for military service, but a particular teacher in high school had the greatest impact on him.

“I made that because I had very, very good people who worked with me, who worked for me, and that I worked for, you know?” Roy said when asked what good leadership looks like. "If you’re a true leader, then you know what the people did to get you there, and you know what you have to do to make that right.”

Roy Hunter
Roy Hunter

“I had a coach who was very influential in my life. He was an excellent leader. So, actually, I learned a huge amount from him, and I kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps one day,” said Roy.

He couldn’t just walk into a school and start teaching, though. He would have to go back to college to get certified, something he knew would be difficult, but his wife of 50 years was an encouraging presence for him as he pursued his dream.

Roy said her faith in him and her leadership at home helped him through it all.

For the next 17 years, Roy taught anatomy and physiology in his hometown of Bixby, Oklahoma.

“So many positive things came out of my teaching, personally. And hopefully for [the students] as well,” said Roy.

Roy Hunter Medals

Over the years, Roy has kept up with his students’ successes and challenges. He knows of 32 nurses, 67 EMT’s and at least two veterinarians who took his course and are now doing well. He remembers each of them for their unique personalities and abilities.

One special story Roy remembers is about an extremely bright young student who dreamed of being a doctor like her father, but a neurological disorder caused her hands to be unsteady, so she had given up on ever becoming a surgeon. Never one to allow a student to quit something that was so important to them, Roy encouraged her to study robotic surgery. She is now a junior at the University of Oklahoma and is studying medicine.

Another story happened during the COVID-19 lockdown when schools had converted to online learning. Roy didn’t particularly care for the online platform. He wanted to see his students and interact with them in person, like he had for nearly two decades. But a special digital surprise organized by one of his students still makes him emotional.

“We’re all individuals, and as a teacher, you’ve got to keep that in mind. Not everybody is going to get it the same way. You have to be able to move yourself to that spot to help these individuals who need specific help,” he said.

Roy Hunter
Roy Hunter

The entire class agreed to keep quiet and out of view of their cameras until the leader said, “3…2…1…Now!”

Every student flipped over a sign saying, “We love you Mr. Hunter!”

“It was something else,” said Roy with tears in his eyes. “I mean, several years later, I’m still crying about it because it just touched my heart that they would do that just for me.”

Roy Hunter’s influence in the classroom stays with his students, too. They constantly approach him in public to shake his hand or give him a hug and just say thank you. He is always happy to see them and hear about their careers and families. Sometimes, a former student will pick up the check for his meal or buy him a cup of coffee.

After 17 years of teaching, Roy again retired from a career he loved. As is the case with many natural-born teachers, though, he didn’t stay out of the classroom. His desire to serve his community is every bit as strong as his desire to serve his country, so when the school needed help, Roy heeded the call.

A math teacher was unable to return to the classroom after losing her child in a car accident. The school was unable to find someone who could be a long-term substitute in her absence, and Roy stepped up to complete the last few weeks of the fall semester.

“The one thing that keeps the classroom solid and makes it go forward is continuity,” he said, emphasizing the importance of having a stable learning environment.

Roy Hunter

Although he was asked to stay on through the end of the year, Roy knew he could not give the students the kind of learning experience in math they needed to succeed. He turned down the offer only to return to the science classroom a few weeks later when a middle school teacher quit mid-year.

Ultimately, Roy’s heart lies in Bixby, whether it’s in the classroom or down at the local watering hole. He has deep roots in the town that go back generations, and he has seen the area grow and change over time. The one thing that doesn’t change, however, is the close-knit community.

“Things change, but the community here is very good, overall. It’s hard to explain, but if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing here, you have the support of these people,” he said. “I do the things I do because of my family and my raising. I was taught to help.”

Although Roy Hunter doesn’t really see himself as a hero, he is a hero to hundreds of students who he served, cared for, educated, listened to, and guided over the years. In fact, during a campaign to make him Teacher of the Year, the students made a poster of Roy that hangs in his house to this day. It says, “So, you say you’ve never met a hero. You haven’t met Master Chief Hunter.”

“I’m one person of, what, 300 million in the United States?” said Roy. But he believes that even influencing one person to do something positive can have a far-reaching impact on the world.

“I don’t care if you’re the garbage man or whether you’re an orthopedic surgeon,” he said. “Do the job the best you can. Make it count every time that you possibly can, and we will be a better society.”

Together, We're More

More Than a Veteran

Master Chief Petty Officer Roy Hunter embodies the very definition of servant leadership. From his 20-year career in the U.S. Navy to his 17-year career as a high school science teacher, he has given his life to the service of others. Hear his story.