Does our nation deserve people like Sgt. Eddie Wright, or Capt. Brent Morell, or any of the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women who have served this country or been wounded or killed in action?
I still say yes, in principal. But we could do more to honor their sacrifice. A lot more.
Sgt. Eddie Wright, a retired Marine and Conroe resident who lost his two arms in combat in Iraq, spoke to a standing-room-only Veteran’s celebration of The Woodlands Rotary Club on Thursday.
Although he paid a steep price to keep his commitment to serve this country, Sgt. Wright exhibited no regret for his service, and clearly didn’t want anyone’s pity. He hopes rather to inspire others to serve a country he loved enough to pay the price of the loss of his forearms.
Being a Marine was a lifelong dream for Sgt. Wright; it was a dream he nourished from an early age.
“It was always my dream to be a Marine,” he told club members. “Ultimately l was able to make that dream a reality.
“I remember when we were on patrol one night; My unit was inserted into the suburbs around Fallujah. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe I was doing what I had always imagined.”
It was Fallujah – the scene of some of the fiercest door-to-door fighting of the entire war – where Sgt. Wright’s dream eventually took a brutal detour.
“It was 2004. We got into a big firefight and we were ambushed.
“I was in the lead vehicle and I was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.”
The blast ripped off both hands. While he lay there stunned, he could hear and see a steady barrage of bullets snapping through the thin walls of his unarmored Humvee. He thought to himself: “If I get hit again, that’s it.”
Wright would lose both forearms and later be awarded a bronze star medal with combat distinguishing device for heroic achievement.
But he readily acknowledged he was alive only because of someone else’s supreme sacrifice: Capt. Brent Morell.
It was Morrell’s heroic charge straight into the ambush that saved Sgt. Wright’s life and the lives of numerous other Marines.
Here is the citation for Morell’s Navy Cross – awarded posthumously:
“The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Captain Brent Lee Morel, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as Platoon Commander, Second Platoon, Company B, First Reconnaissance Battalion, FIRST Marine Division, First Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 7 April 2004. Captain Morel's platoon escorted a convoy into the Al Anbar Province when 40 to 60 insurgents in well-fortified and concealed positions initiated an ambush. Witnessing a rocket-propelled grenade crippling his lead vehicle and while mortar and machine gun fire erupted, he ordered his remaining two vehicles to secure a flanking position. Captain Morel left his vehicle and led a determined assault across an open field and up a 10-foot berm, in order to maneuver into firing positions. The boldness of this first assault eliminated several insurgents at close range forcing their retreat. Observing his Marines pinned down from enemy fire, Captain Morel left the safety of his position and continued the assault, eliminating the enemy's attack. During this valiant act, he fell mortally wounded by a withering burst of enemy automatic weapons fire. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Captain Morel reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
“If it wasn’t for his actions, I wouldn’t be here today,” Sgt. Wright said. “It’s people like that who are the real heroes; I was just trying to fight my way out of the situation.”
Sgt. Wright has paid an enormous price to serve his country. But he thinks little of it today. After a year of physical and occupational therapy where he learned to use the claws that now substitute for the forearms he lost in Iraq, Sgt. Wright still sees a bright future for himself, his wife and baby daughter.
And the community has done what it could to help. Sgt. Wright was the 20th serviceman to receive the keys to a new furnished home from the organization HelpingaHero.org.
“I wouldn’t trade anything. I was fortunate to be able to live out my dream; and I’m still young enough to pursue my new dreams, with my wife and my baby daughter,” he said.
And he hopes he and other veterans, armed with the lessons they’ve learned in their service, can put those lessons to use for their country.
“I believe this is the greatest nation in the world; we hope to keep that dream alive.”