G.T. Gunhus enrolled at Hillcrest in 1957. His experience parallels a foxhole conversation that put him on a unique trajectory to be used by God.
In 1957, Gunhus found himself in a Comet uniform with a beat up helmet hugging his ears. The equipment was worn. Augsburg college discarded the worn helmets, and Hillcrest's year-old football program quickly picked them up.
Being only the second year Hillcrest fielded a football team, most in the area felt the Comets would be easy pickings for a pad to stats and a tally in the win column. But with Gunhus' athleticism and football I.Q., the Comets played spoiler throughout the year.
Dust rolled off the wheels as the Comet bus came to a jolted stop in Campbell, Minnesota for one of the many spoiler games. Campbell scheduled the Comets for homecoming. Fans stood in silent protest as the Comets made quick work of the established football program. Gunhus and his teammates unstrapped their gear as they grabbed water bottles for halftime, smiling. The Comets were spoiling homecoming with the scoreboard blaring their 34-0 score. "Not a team could beat us," Gunhus recalled.
Jumping into a football program picking up speed, Gunhus' Hillcrest experience would provide context for a future battle. He joined the Vietnam war at the height of combat. Having the experience of jumping in to contribute to Hillcrest's football program, Gunhus had a knack for catching up with a pace. His role as Army Chaplain would take him to a difficult place and greatly shape his life.
Gunhus' green-stained army bag hit the ground with a thud at a base camp at Phu Loi, Vietnam in 1968. The entire first month brought Gunhus face-to-face with an ominous fear. “I was afraid I was going to die.”
His fear heated to a boiling point when Viet Cong guerrillas attacked the Phu Loi Camp on October 12. Rocket and mortar fire blared as he crouched in a deep bunker under the cover of night. The sandbags provided little security as the ground shook and awoke Gunhus' fear. “I had to come to grips with my calling,” Gunhus recalled. The faces of his wife Ann, and two small boys, Kevin (age four at the time) and Michael (6 months old), ran through his mind as mortar shells exploded around him. He reminisced that the strongest picture was the “image of a family without a dad and husband.” He remembered thinking, “I didn’t sign up for any of this.”
Then, the Lord spoke. “Do you trust me to keep you alive?”
Gunhus responded: “Yes, by your Grace.”
“If I allow you to die, do you trust me to take care of your family?” God asked.
Again, Gunhus replied, more slowly: “Yes, by your Grace.”
It was in that night that Gunhus' call to military service was reinforced. He recalls his soul centering on a passage from John, chapter 15, verse 16. “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” At that point, Gunhus realized that he was God’s servant, and his response was to say, “Lord, send me where you want me to go.”
Later in his career Gunhus would counsel hundreds of men in difficult times. He supported many in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, where he was the Chief Chaplain for the U.S. Army as a four-star general. His office was obliterated when the terrorists flew a plane into the Pentagon. Gunhus was on vacation at the time. In coming back to the office, Gunhus resolved to build a chapel where terrorists crashed a plane that left the Pentagon charred. He led the effort in building the chapel, a place many have found solace.
More of G.T. Gunhus' story is told in Hillcrest's Centennial book, written by historian Steve Hoffbeck, set to release at the Hillcrest Invitational Tournament, April 7-8 2017. This Centennial highlight is a glimpse into how God uses experiences at Hillcrest to prepare followers to be a beacon of light in a darkened world.