Jarrod Taylor

by Jarrod Taylor

by Jarrod Taylor

LOA: How do you reconcile the difference in gravity between what you did in the military and what you do as a civilian? Do you get restless? How do you deal with this restlessness?

Taylor: There is no doubt that my military service and everything I experienced while in uniform changed me as a person. It can be challenging to come home and realize that decisions and actions no longer have life and death consequences. I sometimes felt like civilians were really missing the big picture, and I still find myself feeling that way at times.

So the waiter messed up your order? At least you are getting a hot meal. You have three final exams in the same day? I’ve gone days without sleep, been shot at blown up, and mortared. Is your life really that rough?

I found, when I came home, that I was ready to overcome any obstacle. Isn’t that what we did in the military? We faced challenges head-on, and always accomplished our missions. The civilian world can be frustrating, and it certainly has its challenges. There are obstacles, and they aren’t always as clear as those we faced in the military. It is never quite as simple as, the bad guy is in that house. Break the door down and get him. As a veteran, I often feel that the task at hand is never as clearly defined as things were in the military. Most of us have bosses now, but it just isn’t the same.

I am finding that I miss a lot of things about the military, and a few of those things are somewhat surprising. I miss moving every few years. I miss being out and seeing different parts of the country and the world. I miss the excitement, and of course I miss being with some of the closest friends I’ve ever had. Do I find myself being restless? Absolutely. I’ve been out for almost 7 years now, and I’m ready for a change. I’m ready for a new house in a new town. I’m ready for another new adventure.

Dealing with the restlessness is a different story. I have a family, a job, and responsibilities. I have a hard time being idle, so I am always doing stuff. I rearrange my garage and my closet, because I need something to do, and I want something different. I’ve realized that every time I have a day off, I’m working on something. It seems ridiculous, because I always feel like there is a mountain of work to be done, but I never make any progress on it. I’m always doing something though. I have a hard time just relaxing and taking time for myself. I have found some things that I enjoy. I like to write and cook. I ride a motorcycle, and I like to get out to the shooting range when I can. I don’t ride or shoot as often as I’d like to, but I do enjoy doing both of those things. Honestly, I think that the military is part of the reason I don’t spend much time doing the things that I really enjoy.

LOA: Scott Fitzgerald said, “all life is a process of breaking down.” How have you used these breakdowns (often of the body and the mind, and even the nerves) as a platform for rebirth?

Taylor: It’s like exercising a muscle. You work and work, and break it down. It comes back stronger next time, and things get easier. The military broke me down. I was away from home. I lost friends. I was tired. I was hungry. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was an infantryman, and I served four tours in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Each time, those experiences were breaking me down. We become more and more numb to physical and emotional pain and more prepared for the next challenge. Each time we come through something, we come back stronger the next time. There are times now when it seems like the world is just kicking my ass. I’ve been through worse, and I know I’ll keep moving forward. I’m still here, and I’ll still be here tomorrow.

LOA: What is the most life-changing event you’ve participated in since getting home?

Taylor: I went to college immediately after leaving active duty. After graduating, I became a teacher. It’s a very different world, but in some ways it is the same. I wouldn’t call this a life-changing event, but I have noticed that my identity has changed. I used to be a soldier. I identified as a soldier. When people asked what I did, I told them that I was in the army. If another military person asked, I told them, “I’m an 11 Bravo.” That meant something.

When I got out of the army, and someone asked what I did. I told them, “I just got out of the army. I’m going back to school.” Their next question was always if I had been anywhere, and it turned into stories of firefights and IEDs. Hell yes, I’ve been somewhere. Which time would you like to hear about? What the hell have you done?

When I became a teacher, I still identified as a combat veteran. It was one of the first things that I told my students, their parents, and my coworkers. I was proud of it, and it set me apart from the rest of the people at my school. They always asked why I became a history teacher, and I always told them that I missed the war. It’s like I’m getting my fix. I get to read, write, and talk about war almost every day. What a great job for me! 

I’ve been a middle school teacher for three years now. I am a veteran, but when people ask me what I do, I don’t tell them that I was a soldier. I don’t tell them that I’m a veteran. I tell them that I am a teacher. The tough soldier that I used to be is now hidden behind graying hair and a growing waistline. There are still little hints in my personal appearance though. My dress shoes are spit-shined like my boots used to be, and my shirts are creased and crisp. I don’t look like a soldier anymore, and I don’t feel like one anymore. I am getting softer, both physically and mentally, and I don’t like it. These days, I am a teacher. In my head and heart though, I don’t feel like a teacher. I don’t feel like a soldier either. I’m not sure where I fit anymore.

LOA: What do you miss about the military?

Taylor: Like many veterans, I think I miss the camaraderie the most. I miss living in different parts of the country and the opportunities for new experiences that went along with that. I lived in Georgia, New York, and Hawaii. While living in those places, I got to know the areas. I did some traveling and exploring on my own time. Those are experiences that I wouldn’t have had outside of the army, and I miss that.

LOA: What do you NOT miss about the military?

Taylor: I don’t miss being away from my family. I don’t miss the late night and weekend phone calls because some soldier in the unit got into trouble. I don’t miss the unpredictable day-to-day work schedule.

LOA: When you reflect on your time in uniform, what moment, or event, comes back to you most often?

Taylor: This varies from time-to-time. I have so many stories that pop up in my mind at different times. Some are good, and some are bad: weekends in Canada and boating on the St. Lawrence River when I was stationed at Ft. Drum, surfing when the sun came up when I lived in Hawaii, the other married couples we hung out with at Ft. Drum, fighting in Sadr City, losing friends, etc. I could go on and on about memories. There are times that I remember fondly, and other times that I really didn’t like. There are stories from great friends and great times we had.

If I had to choose a time that comes to mind most often, I would have to say that it was the time I spent in Sadr City, Iraq in spring 2008. It was there, in the streets of Baghdad, where we really put out training to the test and learned what we were made of.

LOA: Do you discuss your time overseas with your civilian friends? How do they respond?

Taylor: I have discussed some stories with civilian friends, but to be completely honest, I don’t really have many civilian friends. I have shared some stories with my coworkers. They don’t get it. I once played a video that I took in a firefight in Sadr City. The video doesn’t show much. I turned the camera on and just let it roll during the fight. The battle sounds intense though, and it’s more than enough for people to understand what a firefight is like. One of my coworkers commented that she hoped we were shooting targets for practice.

I have told some war stories here and there, but people just really don’t get it. The humor isn’t the same. They really can’t relate to my experiences, because they have just never been in situations that are anything like combat. Sometimes they are interested, and they want to listen. Other times, I can tell that what I’m saying is making them very uncomfortable.

I’m not shy about my experiences, but I also don’t push my stories on people. Plus, the longer I’m out, the less relevant my stories become.

Travis Klempan

Travis K. Color

I enlisted in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. I originally wanted to go in as an interpreter, complete with a year of training in Monterey, California, but my minor and expunged criminal record (self-admitted at MEPS, falling victim to a recruiter’s lies) prevented me from getting a Top Secret clearance. I was also borderline color blind, so either Corpsman was the only job open to me, or MEPS needed another couple Docs to send to the Fleet. I went to Boot Camp at Great Mistakes in July 1999, hating the humidity more than any other single thing. I went to A School at Great Lakes, too, graduating in January, hating the cold more than any other single thing. I went to Field Medical Service School in Camp Pendleton, California, then was assigned to 1st Maintenance Battalion. I applied for and was accepted to the Naval Academy, where I reported after spending a year calculating the minimum scores necessary to graduate from the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, Rhode Island. I did four years at Annapolis, studying English literature and philosophy, so I could become the Strike Officer (when I got a Top Secret clearance; take THAT, bureaucracy!) and Force Protection Officer in USS Princeton out of San Diego. Two deployments later I volunteered for a year in Iraq, assembling presentations for teleconferences and doing my best to stay hydrated (though I did forget my reflective belt on numerous occasions). As a reward for volunteering for Iraq I picked Hawaii for follow-on (and terminal) orders. I was the Officer-in-Charge of a barge, named the Mobile At-Sea Sensor (MATSS, not as cool as our call sign, “Godzilla”). I got out in March of 2012 and came home to Lafayette, Colorado. I’ve been pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing for the past two years and graduate in July, after which I’ll have to get a real job.

LOA: How do you reconcile the difference in gravity between what you did in the military and what you do as a civilian? Do you get restless?

There were many days that the gravity of my circumstances in uniform were nil. I spent that year in Iraq putting together PowerPoint presentations for generals and colonels; I also read 105 books that year. I was the Gun Liaison Officer on the bridge when two aircraft carriers and an amphibious assault ship and their escorts transited the Strait of Hormuz, the Iranian Navies right alongside the whole time. I don’t think the military is an occupation like any other, though it shares numerous characteristics (boredom, routine, monotony, finding or inventing fun) with office life. Right now I’m finishing up my MFA in Creative Writing from a “hippie Buddhist school” and plan on returning to the Navy, but as a civilian instructor. So which is more important? I’m not sure. Gravity is where we find it (and when I write this, scientists have just discovered gravity waves) or make it. Is it important to be the best student I can be? Was it important that I knew what the hell I was doing when I was on the bridge in the middle of the night? Absolutely, because we should always take our work seriously (but takes ourselves less seriously).

LOA: F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “All life is a process of breaking down.” How have you used these breakdowns (often of the body and the mind, and even the nerves) as a platform for rebirth?

Absolutely. Just like muscles tear under weight training (note to self: get back to the gym) and rebuild stronger, so too do our emotional and mental muscles. However, just like overexertion or misdirection can ruin our physical bodies, so too can aimless or purposeless suffering can damage our psyches/souls/chis/what-have-yous. I wouldn’t say I’ve “reinvented” myself (for aren’t we always in a process of reinvention?) since I got out of the Navy, but I have decided what to hold on to (fierce loyalty, humor in the face of adversity, willingness to commit) and what to let go of (dogmatic devotion to ideas and not people, quick reactions and tempers, hardheadedness), so yes. I’m building back from the breakdown today. What are you doing?

LOA: What is the most life-changing event you’ve participated in since getting home?

My mom recently passed away after a prolonged battle with a rare disease. There were many moments of learning and clarity, but the biggest thing I’ll keep from her passing came in her last few days. She had held on to some bitterness, anger, and resentment from an entire lifetime. She chose to give it all up so she could spend her last hours with love in her heart. What I realized is she didn’t forgive or forget those people who’d hurt her, she just chose to release the negative energy. I don’t believe being kind means being soft. In fact, I think we could focus more in our culture and military on balancing sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease), two Sanskrit words that are central to the practice of yoga (and life in general). Long story short, we can love more and love harder and love fiercer, lose fear and embrace restraint, and still be warriors.

LOA: What do you miss about the military?

First off, the people (except for the blower-offers, the lay-abouts, the career-minded, the pretend warriors). Secondly, the travel (except for the year in Iraq, or the six weeks in a row spent staring at waves off Guam and playing variations of the Kevin Bacon Game). Thirdly, the sense of mission and accomplishment (except for participation in a poorly-defined and poorly-executed war/occupation/whatever-it-was, and the time I spent reading People magazine because there was literally nothing to do). Fourthly, someone kicking my butt to work out (okay, that one is an unqualified miss).

LOA: What do you NOT miss about the military?

See above.

LOA: When you reflect on your time in uniform, what moment, or event, comes back to you most often?

I focus on a couple of moments. Two of them in particular are when we were dead in the water (DIW; for non-SWO/non-Navy types, DIW is what you don’t want to be – no engines, no rudders, at the whims and mercy of the seas). Luckily both were pretty benign, though the second time I was on the MATSS barge being towed a thousand miles out from Hawaii, and the tugboat didn’t realize right away that the towline had parted. For some reason I love thinking about those moments when we were adrift, literally following wave and current and wind. Our engines silent, miles from land, it might have been what early transatlantic sailors felt when they reached the Horse Latitudes. I don’t know, it was kind of fun each time.

LOA: Do you discuss your time overseas with your civilian friends? How do they respond?

I puttered around for a few years after I got out. I traveled, worked at a movie theater (as a popcorn-maker, not even anything fancy), and thought about going back to school. I applied to and was accepted into an MFA program in Creative Writing at probably the most polar opposite place from my military life. Naropa University is a Buddhist-inspired school focused on therapy and the arts and has few if any connections to the military, beyond a few veterans using the GI Bill (necessary to pay for the massively expensive private education afforded at a place which requires their students to take yoga or some other contemplative practice). I’ve got nine other writers in my cohort, and not a single one of them has given anything other than a positive response to my time in uniform. In fact, I’ve challenged their assumptions (so they’ve told me) about people in the military, especially that an entity as large as the DOD will have every type of human represented. I’m not the type to bring up “war stories” willy-nilly, though I often tell the humorous stories and highlight the Kafkaesque absurdity of my time in Iraq. I reciprocate with interest in their life stories, since their lives are just as fascinating as mine. One friend spent years working hard and shitty jobs on her way through undergrad and her first grad degree and is always good for a story about the evils of the capitalist system; another comes from Ireland and is traveling the world, meeting people and working alongside them; a third believes unceasingly in the saving power of poetry, and that idea is starting to rub off on me.

I know there’s a gap between veterans and civilians, and a lot of it comes from a lack of awareness on the part of the majority who’ve never served in uniform. But there’s also a stubbornness on the part of many veterans, who don’t seem like they want to engage in any sort of real conversation with people who have questions and are at least willing to listen. In simpler terms, we need to be storytellers as much as we need to listen to others.

Travis Klempan enlisted in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 2006 and served as a Surface Warfare Officer until he left the Navy in 2012. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. His writing has appeared in Atticus Review, Ash & Bones, and Helix Syntax, and his poetry was included in Volume 4 of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. He is working on a novel about ghost stories in Iraq.

 

 

Cam Dupre

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Cam Dupre is a Marine Infantryman who hails from Baton Rouge, LA.  Cam joined the USMC in 2007 when he was 18 years old.  During his 4 years he was assigned to 2/2 out of Camp Lejeune, NC and deployed to Iraq’s Al Anbar Province and Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.  After an honorable discharge Cam made the move to Chicago to pursue a career in acting and comedy.  After studying at Chicago’s Second City theater, Cam founded an all veteran touring theater company, Stars and Gripes to continue his service of Veteran outreach and awareness as well as to bring theater to the veteran world.  Cam is also a musician, rapper (under the name Diezel, Cam has recently released his debut album), and a Rubik’s cube speed solver with a record solve time of 38 seconds.

Cam currently lives in Chicago and tours with Stars and Gripes.  You can catch Cam performing with Stars and Gripes at Chicago Sketchfest 2016, where Stars and Gripes were chosen as top 5 must see shows by the Sun Times, as well as on Fridays in Feburary at Second City’s Donny’s Skybox Theater 7pm.

LOA: How do you reconcile the difference in gravity between what you did in the military and what you do as a civilian? Do you get restless?

Cam:  I definitely had to do some searching.  I felt there was a void in my life after getting out of the military.  I had served such a high purpose for the last 4 years and after I felt under utilized and near useless.  The only thing that guided me was my passion for the arts.  I had put trust and faith into myself and followed the path that I felt was right for me.  It took 4 years of searching, trying, and failing constantly until I found my hook, my guiding light.  It was extremely hard, I wanted to give up, I felt lost, sad, and depressed but I just kept that faith and trusted that if I kept at it it was going to pay off some how.

LOA: Scott Fitzgerald said, “all life is a process of breaking down.” How have you used these breakdowns as a platform for rebirth?

Cam: Once you truly believe you hit rock bottom, the. You can only go up.  It reminds me of a combat mentality to accept that you’ve already, or will die.  Then the fear of death is no more.

LOA: What is the most life-changing event in which you’ve participated since getting home?

Cam: My experience with ayahuasca was very profound for me.  It transcends words so it’s very hard to explain, but it put me on a path of recovery for my PTSD that is unmatched by any therapy, pill, or medicine known to man.

LOA: What do you miss most about the military?

Cam: MY FUCKING WAR DOG BROTHERS!

LOA: What do you miss least about the military?

Cam: Having to salute during colors and any officer.

LOA: When you reflect on your time in uniform, what moment, or event, comes back to you most often?

Cam: The time I was sleeping in the barracks during lunch and had my entire squad jump me and give me a birthday beat down.

LOA:  Do you discuss your time overseas with your civilian friends? How do they respond?

Cam: Yes, I do.  I try to be as open with my experiences as possible.  If we as veterans aren’t open about our experiences there is no way for others to develop an understanding of us or our lifestyle.  I often tell people the worst thing you can do to learn about the military is watch the news.  I’d much rather civilians hear what’s happening overseas from someone that’s been verses the god awful media who could care less about truth.  I won’t spin my experience, I’ll tell you how is was, good, bad and ugly.  I get many different reactions, someone are stunned and speechless, some are interested and intrigued, some may not like it but like I said, it’s the truth and if rather civilians be educated by a vet than become ignorant by the media.

 

Jacob Faivre

Jake Faivre

Jake is the creator of, A Marine’s Life In Lyrics, a blog focused on healing and music.  Jake grew up on a farm in Northern Illinois and enlisted in the Marine Corps in November 2005.  He deployed twice to Iraq with 1st Battalion 3d Marines serving first as a team leader and then as a squad leader.  He got out of the Marine Corps in 2009 and attended Illinois State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.  Jake is currently working on an exciting documentary titled, “To See Them As They Are“ focused on combat related mental health illnesses and the difficulties veterans face transitioning home from the military. Check out A Marine’s Life in Lyrics Facebook page too.

LOA: How do you reconcile the difference in gravity between what you did in the military and what you do as a civilian? Do you get restless? How do you deal with this restlessness?

Jake: I honestly don’t have a good answer for this because I’m still trying to figure that answer out myself.  I definitely get restless and in the past I would drink it away, or try and stay busy doing something else to take my mind off of it all.  Civilian life can seem so trivial after experiences like those in the military and that’s something I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with.

LOA: Scott Fitzgerald said, “all life is a process of breaking down.” How have you used these breakdowns (often of the body and the mind, and even the nerves) as a platform for rebirth?

Jake: It’s crazy you asked this question because I recently came to the realization that my depression comes in waves or cycles; endless vicious cycles.  But I’ve learned to better recognize the signs that I’m slumping back into a depression which allows me pick up on triggers that cause anger or sadness or whatever emotion it may be, and then I can really think about why those things might be bothering me and what I can do to remedy the situation.  Meditation has been invaluable during those times when I’m down.  I now almost look forward to the times when I get depressed because it’s during those moments that I learn the most about myself and the world around me.  Good things always seems to come out of it and in the end I feel more enlightened each time I battle through those tough times.

LOA: What is the most life-changing event you’ve participated in since getting home?

Jake: Finally doing something about the way I’ve been feeling has been BY FAR the biggest life-changing event since getting home.  For 9 years I’ve been living with major depression and I just couldn’t take putting on my happy face anymore.  It’s exhausting trying to hide the fact that you’re depressed and it wasn’t helping any to bury those feelings so I decided to do something about it.  I had no idea that when I started writing and created my blog that it would lead me to where I am today.  It was always my dream to make a documentary at some point in my life, I just never dreamt it would be about a topic like depression, with me as the lead character.

LOA: What do you miss about the military?

Jake: The guys I served with.  There’s a bond that is made when you put men through stuff like that that just can’t be replicated anywhere else.  In those situations it doesn’t matter what race, religion, or social class you come from, you’re all brothers.  To quote Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother”

LOA: What do you NOT miss about the military?

Jake: Everything else besides that mentioned in the previous question would fall into the category of “things I do not miss about the military”.  There’s so many things I hated about the military; hurry up and wait, leaders who had no business leading, the endless rules and regulations, and just overall my personal freedom to do and say what I want.  I didn’t like feeling like a robot, but to be fair, overall it was a good experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

LOA: When you reflect on your time in uniform, what moment, or event, comes back to you most often?

Jake: There’s really two moments that jump out at me the most.  One was when I was a boot and we were on the big island of Hawaii at Pukahola Training Area.  It was really early in the morning; everyone was still sleeping in their tents.  I was on radio watch with another Marine from my squad and we heard a gun shot just a couple hundred meters away where Marines from weapons platoon were camped out.  I waited a few seconds to see if I heard anything else but it was silent.  I realized then that something bad had happened; I just had that sick feeling in my stomach.  So I called into our battalion COC to report hearing the gun shot and that’s when I heard the yelling and screaming begin.  A Marine had went into the port-a-potty, put his M-16 in his mouth, and ended his life that beautiful morning in those seemingly endless fields of lava rock.

The other moment that jumps out at me was when our OP got rocketed and one of the rockets never detonated upon impact so our chain of command decided to send out my squad to investigate the impact site.  While sitting in our cordon waiting for EOD to arrive we heard the unmistakable sound of more incoming rockets.  That noise is what still sticks with me to this day.  I sometimes have flashbacks to that moment when I hear the sirens of emergency vehicles or something along those lines.

LOA: Do you discuss your time overseas with your civilian friends? How do they respond?

Jake: I’ve discussed some higher level experiences that I had overseas with some of my civilian friends, and maybe one or two I’ve gotten into a little more detail with.  Most don’t know how to respond.  It’s a topic that many have a hard time truly wrapping their head around.  It’s tough, I’ve lost friends and have had relationships with family members ruined because of my time overseas.  It changes people, and sometimes that change is hard for those who haven’t experienced combat, or haven’t spent any time in a different country to understand how veterans might be feeling when they transition home.

LOA: It looks like you did pretty well on the indiegogo campaign. The promo for the “To See Them As They Are” project is great. What’s next in the process? Hitting the road soon?

Jake: The Indiegogo campaign did well. It was was able to raise enough to make this dream a reality.  It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a lot friends and family; it was very much a grassroots campaign, as most crowd funding is.  It’s been a lot of work just to get to this point, having never made a film before my past few months have been spent learning as much as I can.  If it wasn’t for some really good blogs and youtube videos out there, I would probably be a little more worried than I am already – but the real work is just beginning.  Filming starts in two weeks and over the next 5 months I’ll be traveling over 10,000 miles by car and another 1,000 miles by foot and backpack out in the backcountry of some of the most beautiful national parks in the southern and western states.  I’ll be traveling solo for the duration of the trip as I hope to find some answers and some peace along the way.  The idea is, spending some time outdoors will provide me with the therapy I was unable to get through other avenues.  After the road trip I’ll start the post-production process and we’ll see what kind of film we get out of this.  It’s been a crazy adventure to this point, can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Col. Darron L. Wright Bio

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Darron Lee Wright (22 May 1968 – 23 September 2013) was a highly decorated colonel in the United States Army. He served three tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Wright was born in Dallas but grew up in Mesquite, Texas, where he graduated from West Mesquite High School and joined the National Guard. He then attended Kemper Military College in Booneville Missouri, earning an associate degree and commission as a Second Lieutenant in 1988. In 1991, Wright earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of North Texas.

Later that year, Wright moved to his fist assignment where he served as a rifle platoon leader, company executive officer, and company commander with the 3rd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 7th Infantry Division (Light), at Fort Ord, California. After a short tour in the Republic of Korea he was assigned as a company commander with 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment. After his company commander time, he served as a long-range surveillance detachment commander with 313th Military Intelligence Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was at Bragg from 1996 to 2000.

From 2000 to 2004, Wright served as the chief of operations for 7th Infantry Division and as battalion operations officer for 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 4th infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado, with whom he deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Wright was next assigned as brigade executive officer with 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, with whom he deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.  In 2007 he was assigned as battalion commander for 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana. From 2009 to 2013, Wright was assigned as deputy brigade commander for the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, with whom he deployed to Iraq from 2009 to 2010, and later as operations officer for the 7th Infantry Division and I Corps, Fort Lewis, Washington. Despite the high operational tempo of his previous 25 years of service Wright actively sought out challenging assignments that would put him directly in combat.  He secured the position of assistant chief of staff for the 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which was already training to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Wrights arrived and settled into their new assignment in August 2013, eager and excited for another adventure.  On 23 September 2013, tragedy struck and COL Wright died during a training accident at the age of 45.  After serving his country for 26 years and after 37 months deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, COL Darron Lee Wright was laid to rest on 2 October 2013 at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

Colonel Wright is survived by his wife, Wendy, of Canadian, Texas; two sons, Dillon, a student at Virginia Military Institute, and Kyle of Canadian, Texas; a daughter, Chloe, of Renton, Washington; his mother Kathy Rice and step-father Harvey Rice of Mesquite; his brother Larron Wright, of Mesquite, Texas, and sister, Michelle Wentz, of Mansfield, Texas.

COL Wright’s decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit (2nd award), Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Bronze Star Medal (3rd award), Meritorious Service Medal (6th award), Army Commendation Medal (4th award), Army Achievement Medal (3rd Award), Presidential Unit Citation Award; Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal (2nd Award), Iraqi Campaign Medal (with three campaign stars), Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (4th award), Air Assault Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab, and Senior Parachutist Badge.  He is also a recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

Wright was not only a versatile infantryman; he was also an accomplished scholar.  He wrote numerous professional articles, authored the book “Iraq Full Circle: From Shock and Awe to the Last Combat Patrol in Baghdad and Beyond,” and earned a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies and National Security Decision Making from the United States Naval War College.

Darron L. Wright was a larger than life Soldier’s Soldier.  He was a physically imposing, direct, and skilled warrior.  He was also witty, hilarious, generous, kind, and wholly consumed with love for his family.  He will certainly be missed but he will never be forgotten.  His intellectual curiosity, boundless optimism, and untiring work ethic, allowed him to reach heights he could only dream of as a young boy growing up in Mesquite, Texas.  It is in this spirit that the Darron L. Wright Award was created, to inspire fellow military writers and poets to aspire to become better and more accomplished at their craft and at telling their story.

“May we never forget those past and present who answered the call to defend us and provide the blanket of freedom we sleep under every night.”- Colonel Darron L. Wright

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