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Saturday, 11-Mar-2006 12:00 Email | Share | Bookmark
2/2 2nd CEB - Cpl Daniel Wright

 
http://www.roxboro-courier.com/newsnowstories/ts031106-4.htm

Iraq tours give marine new appreciation
for U.S., friendships - 3/11/06


Twenty-year-old Cpl. Daniel W. Wright, a demolition expert with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, has been forced to grow up quickly the past two years.

While serving in Falujah, Iraq, Wright said, he learned a lot about war, death, danger and fear. But the greatest lessons he learned during two tours in the Middle East are: how lucky he was to be born in the United States of America and the meaning of true friendship.
"After being there," he said of Iraq, "and seeing how those people live, I know we take for granted what we have here in America."

Wright said Iraqis who live outside the larger cities live in houses built of mud, and often "20 people live in a house that has room for [just] five. There is trash everywhere, and the water is not sanitary."

The lives of most Iraqi women weighed upon Wright’s mind, he said, because under the regime of Saddam Hussein, they had little control over their lives. While the women worked hard in the fields, he said, "the father has control of everything.

"After being there," and seeing how the common folk live, he said, "it is always in the back of my mind" that the average Iraqi has never known the kind of life Americans in the U.S. take for granted.

But, he said of the U.S. and Coalition forces, "We already have made a difference for the better."

Over the course of the recent Iraqi elections, said Wright, the number of Iraqis exercising their democratic right to vote increased by more than 300 percent from the first election and by 92 percent between the second and third elections. That, he said, is proof that his own work and that of thousands of other soldiers and Marines has not been in vain.

When he first went to Iraq, Wright said, two platoons of Iraqi soldiers had been trained by U.S. and Coalition forces. But, he noted, “When I left, two battalions had been trained. To see that in a seven-month period makes me know that we’re going in the right direction. The more Iraqi troops we can put on their feet, the less Americans have to be there.”

He said the Iraqi troops had been trained in combat and now will receive the logistics training needed for them to take over, allowing U.S. and Coalition forces a gradual pull-out that Wright thinks might begin over the next couple of years.

“Over all,” he said of the Iraqi troops and civilians, “we’re helping them. No matter what” others may say, “we are helping them.”

Wright added that, as some Democratic lawmakers have urged, should U.S. troops pull out of Iraq now, “we would do more damage than anything.”

The 2003 Person High School graduate said he knew when he signed up with the Marine Corps a few months after graduation that he would eventually go to Iraq. He didn’t, however, plan on doing two tours or going quite as quickly as he did for the first tour.

After entering service in October 2003, Wright completed basic training at Parris Island, S. C., then went to Marine Combat Training at the New River Air Base at Camp Lejeune. After two months of intensive training that lasted six hours a day, he left in June for Al Asad in western Iraq, where he spent three months before taking part in the assault on Falujah. The next three months were spent there, he said, searching for enemy caches.

“We’d sweep,” he said matter of factly this week, “and if we found something, we’d blow it up.”

When that first tour was up, Wright had no qualms about returning for another seven months in Falujah. He says now he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the guys with whom he had worked so closely and become such close friends. When he came home on leave between tours, he said, “It was always in the back of my mind,” that his buddies and fellow Marines were still in Iraq.

Asked if he lived with constant fear during those months in combat, Wright said that, while he felt fear at times, a Marine could not focus on that and do his job.

“So many different things can happen,” he said, but most soldiers stay so focused on their jobs and looking out for one another that fear is forced to take a back seat.

But, he said, “When you get into a dangerous spot you can look at the other faces and tell; everybody steps up their game.”

Wright said he felt prepared by the training he received and was well-equipped by the Marine Corps with all the tools needed to do his job.

“I had everything I needed and more,” he said this week while home on leave before returning to Camp Lejeune. “Anything I said I needed, it was there for me.”

Wright did know real fear on one occasion during his time in Iraq, though, when his vehicle suffered an IED attack. He was awarded a Purple Heart after suffering a concussion and burst eardrums. He is thankful, he said, for receiving good care after his injuries.

When asked how he became interested in the military, Wright said he had been fascinated by it from an early age but had not planned on signing up until after he graduated PHS. He had applied, he said, to Piedmont Community College and hoped to be a member of the first class in PCC’s Power Production Technology program. But, Wright’s GPA was not quite high enough to gain him admission.

His next choice, he said, was to join the military and, after serving his time, “let them pay” for his college.

When he gets out of the Marine Corps in October 2007, Wright plans to apply to PCC again. Until then, he will take some online courses and try this time to keep up the grades.

By that time, Wright will have married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Dunn. Their wedding is scheduled for May.

He returned from Iraq on Feb. 13 and has enjoyed spending time with Dunn and his family. He returns to Camp Lejeune March 13.

When asked what he wanted to do first after returning to Person County, the Hurdle Mills native said, “Go to Hardee’s for a Frisco Burger.” He ended up having steak with his family first, but the trip to Hardee’s didn’t wait long.

Wright encouraged all Personians and other Americans to support the troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan by sending cards, letters and packages. Receiving mail, he said, is the highlight of a soldier’s day. He received so many packages and letters from Person County, he said, that his fellow Marines began teasing him. But it meant a great deal to Wright. Those who are still there, he said, need that same kind of support.

“If you know somebody who’s over there,” he urged, “be nice and send them a box or a letter to let them know you care.”

And for those who don’t personally know a soldier or Marine serving in the Middle East, Wright said organizations such as Adopt a Soldier and Soldiers’ Angels (www.soldiersangels.com) can put civilians in touch with a soldier.

Wright’s parents are Terry and Sherry Wright of Hurdle Mills. He has two younger brothers, David, who turned 18 Tuesday, and Stephen, 15. Both are students at Person High.

In addition to the Purple Heart, Wright has also earned the National Defense Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with Bronze Star; and the Combat Action Ribbon.



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