One of the most valuable people to the football program at East Hall High is a 74-year-old man who answers to the name Gunner.
Barry ‘Gunner’ Stinson is a generous man with his financial resources and comes equipped with a limitless imagination.
He’s just what is needed within a high school program where adequate financial resources and stability at home sometimes hampers playing sports.
At a time in his life when Stinson is afforded the flexibility to kick his feet up and enjoy his golden years, this man who served honorably in the Navy during the Vietnam War is resolute in staying involved and trying to make the world a better place.
“I might not have had a great first quarter to my life, but the fourth quarter has been a blast,” said Stinson, who had a nearly 30-year career with various television stations before going into the sales industry. “I’ve never been happier.”
Despite myriad lingering health problems as a result of coming into contact with Agent Orange in Vietnam, while serving as a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Crockett during his 13-month deployment, Stinson is a jovial fixture at almost every Vikings football practice and wants to be a positive influence on their lives.
One of Gunner’s current projects — possibly his most ambitious — is hand-crafting a Viking Ship to go on their sideline during home games. He said, when finished, it will measure between 22-24 feet long and will be easily broken down for storage purposes.
“I think I can get away with less-than-perfect craftsmanship,” Stinson quipped.
Stinson’s reasoning for getting involved with the Vikings program at this stage of life is simple.
“If I didn’t do it, who would?,” said Stinson, who has no prior ties to the East Hall High community.
Stinson and his wife, Ginger, don’t have children.
East Hall coach Michael Perry said that Gunner now has more than 40 sons in its football program.
“Gunner is so down to Earth and right their to lift the kids up every day at practice,” Perry said. “The love he has for this program is remarkable.”
Stinson has gotten involved in many areas during his short time living in Hall County.
Gunner has been an advocate for local veterans causes, funded pet oxygen masks for the Hall County Fire Department and funded scholarship funds.
Stinson has facilitated ‘mini-grants’ for teachers and is working to fund a scholarship to honor former Hall County Sheriff’s deputy Blane Dixon, who was killed while on patrol in 2019.
For Gunner, his work with the East Hall football program might be his pet project.
He does everything asked of him, and more, for the Vikings.
Stinson’s role is so treasured that his contributions even come with a title: Team Advocate.
Gunner was even a part of the 2020 Vikings team picture, seated right beside the head coach.
“(Gunner) is an amazing man and I’m so thankful to have him with the program,” said Vikings sophomore offensive lineman and linebacker Caleb Pruitt. “He’s very giving and caring.”
Stinson said that his role isn’t based on how much money he can spend. Gunner simply wants to do the little things so players can be at their physical peak to perform on Friday.
Gunner is in charge of the hydration station in the locker room and has brought in misting machines.
He said all of the players show their unconditional gratitude.
“One of the main reasons I keep contributing is that the players are so grateful,” Stinson said. “Kindness begets kindness.”
Gunner’s work starts about two hours before the game starts during the season.
Stinson purchases fruit to slice up in the locker room to have prepared for players at halftime. He also makes sure water bottles are filled and ready for the sideline.
Gunner said that after intermission is the only time he’s able to sneak out to take a glance at the scoreboard. After that, it’s back to work breaking everything down to ensure a clean lockerroom.
Stinson doesn’t receive any financial reward for helping at East Hall.
Quite the opposite.
Gunner is the one who gives selflessly and without expecting anything in return at East Hall.
That’s one of the reasons his presence has made such an impact.
“I don’t mind being the example for these kids at East Hall,” Stinson said.
Gunner’s introduction to football at East Hall was Military Appreciation night, in 2019, at Vikings Stadium. He arranged to have a massive American flag that was unfurled on the field, along with military vehicles to escort World War II veterans around the playing surface.
Stinson’s involvement in football was more of a late-life passion. As the son of an active military man, Gunner bounced around the world growing up. He spent his first two years of high school in Japan, then his final two years in the sleepy city along the Red River Valley of Burkburnett, Texas.
Stinson left the television industry in 1999 after years spent at Channel 46 in Atlanta, leaving when it became owned by CBS.
He remained active in the community, flourishing as a salesperson in the wines and spirits industry.
In 2017, Stinson orchestrated the Veterans Memorial Bowl game at Johns Creek High against Centennial, which was coach at the time by Perry.
The two men immediately hit it off. Gunner said he noticed how respectful Perry’s players were toward the veterans as visitor’s in the matchup among schools in North Fulton County.
By chance, Stinson was about to relocate to Gainesville. Then Perry moved back to his hometown, taking over the program at East Hall.
Perry got word than word than Gunner wanted to get involved in helping with the Vikings’ program, which he welcomed with open arms.
“I want to associate in life with winners,” Stinson said. “And coach Perry is a winner in every sense of the word.