Sunday, February 5, 2012

2011 Legionnaire of the Year: Larry Dunaway

This past December at the annual American Legion Christmas Party in Greenville, Larry Dunaway was named Legionnaire of the Year at Post 186, Camp Cecil Perkerson.

The Air Force Reservist earned the acclaim for a project he began two years ago that has had the full support and enthusiasm of the veterans group: the restoration of an Army Jeep.

Years ago, Donald Roberts had been encouraging Dunaway to go out into his pasture and rescue a Jeep from the many he had stockpiled there. When Dunaway was discussing it with Larry Whitlock, Steve Whitlock overheard and offered the old Jeep that had for years been behind the Sheriff’s Department. 

Dunaway went to look at it, and other than cutting out a tree that had grown up through its middle, thought the 1952 Jeep MA38A1 had possibilities.

“It might have seen service in Viet Nam,” but Dunaway can only guess as the Jeep appeared long ago during one of Sheriff Dan Branch’s terms of office, “but we just don’t know its history.”

Dunaway, who grew up in DeKalb County, often came to Meriwether to his grandfather’s farm. He knows his way around tools and motors: he attended Southern Tech studying Mechanical Engineering but got the best hands on experience in the Air Force Reserves for twenty three years. Seven years were as a technician at Dobbins which was akin to active duty.

He was in the First Gulf War under “Storming Norman” in a unit that operated C130’s out of the UAE. He later spent time in Central America in Honduras and Panama where they performed numerous civil engineering projects like helping build schools, clinics, and digging wells. “We knew we had given something when you brought running water to a community or it had a school thanks to your efforts" he said. 

Dunaway ran the Frisbee Golf Course on Highway 54 between Luthersville and Hogansville for years and put his engineering to work as he manufactured bags for athletes to carry their specialized gear and made portable scoreboards that he shipped to all parts of the world that held Frisbee Golf Tournaments.

As the industrial development began in the northern part of our county, he sold the farm and moved his grandfather’s farmhouse and outbuildings to Wilbur Keith Road. He added a garage/workspace like no other around.  This man cave is the envy of any mechanic, as it can hold dozens of cars and equipment and can even accommodate Dunaway’s 26 foot sailboat.

The two year restoration did not always go smoothly. The hardest challenge was the rust and parts would disintegrate with the turn of a wrench. But Dunaway got the engine running, redid the cooling system, and replaced anything with rubber parts or tubes that had decayed.

“The parts, pieces, and paint are readily available,” Dunaway pointed out, with Combat Cash on the Discovery Channel being a fount of information and military magazines having parts suppliers with many offering discounts or donating pieces to someone restoring military history. Dunaway is also a member of MVPA-Military Vehicle Preservation Association.

This last fall the jeep was pulled through the Veteran’s Day Parade in Manchester with the Greenville legionnaires riding proudly aboard.  In 2012 Dunaway will have the brakes redone and in driving shape for the parade. Ideally he would like to keep the Jeep under cover but on display and able to be used by the Legion, its owner.
This model Jeep has a maximum speed of about 40-50 mph and as a backup has manual windshield wipers.  It would have had a removable green canvas top and doors.

His “Barn Find” holds a special place in his heart as he grew up in the era of hearing rumors that you could buy Jeeps left from the wars that came in a box for $50 and they could be put together.  He always dreamed of doing so even though there really were no such buys. But he says  “this is my Jeep-my Barn Find” and labor of love that only took two or three hundred hours of restoration!

Dunaway prepares a display shelf with empty bullets casings found in the Jeep’s engine.