News: 'Wright brothers' reunite at Command Museum
Story by Cpl. Matheus Hernandez
SAN DIEGO - After being drafted, Herbert O. Wright, prior Army enlisted soldier, was killed in action on the last day of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium during World War II, 1945. He, much like many other service members that have gone before, left behind children to carry on his family name.
Four of those children are now college graduates and were successful in their professions, and for three of them, Jerry, James and William, it was because they chose to serve their country. They enlisted in the Marine Corps more than half a century ago.
Jerry, the oldest of the three, enlisted in August 1958 at the age of 19 after speaking with one of his friends who had mentioned joining the Marine Corps.
“At the time, I was attending Indiana University and not doing very well grade-wise,” said Jerry. “(I knew) that I needed to do something with my life, so I decided to go in with him on the buddy program.”
After completing technical training at United States Naval Ship, Treasure Island, Calif. and San Diego as a ground radio repairman, Jerry was then assigned to 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa later to be assigned to Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif.
“I liked my Okinawa duty. It gave me an opportunity to improve my technician skills and interact with the local citizens,” said Jerry.
Shortly after Jerry enlisted in the summer, James, also known as Jim, followed behind him in the following spring when he enlisted February 1959.
Jim completed training along the west coast where he endured recruit training, attended the Navy Electronics Technician course and Communications Electronics School at MCRD, San Diego for training as a Radio Relay Repairman.
After finishing his training, Jim boarded an attack transport and sailed to Iwakuni, Japan where he was assigned to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Forces Pacific. Jim was then transferred to Cherry Point, NC where he was assigned 2nd MAW, FMF Atlantic.
“During my tours with 1st and 2nd MAW, I was deployed several times on temporary duty to places like Thailand, prior to the full build-up of the Vietnam War and to Puerto Rico during the Cuban Missile Crisis,” said Jim. “All three of us were stationed in the Far East at one time or another. When I was in (Iwakuni), Jerry was stationed in Okinawa, and I believe Bill was stationed in Okinawa after I had been transferred to Cherry Point.”
William, also known as Bill, the youngest of the three, later enlisted in 1961 and after completing training as a machine gunner, he was then assigned to 1st and 3rd Marine Division.
“I was motivated to enlist, because I didn't do well in my first year of college. So college was a shock to my system and I was overwhelmed,” said Bill. “I was a lost 19 year old boy. Since I knew Jerry and Jim had left school as well and enlisted in the Corps, I decided it was the best place for me. At that time in my life the Marine Corps rescued me and truly did make a man of me.”
Bill grew up feeling inferior because of his poor background when he was younger, but as he underwent recruit training his self-esteem was boosted significantly.
“In boot camp I realized that I was just as good as the others in the platoon when during an inspection my uniform, boots and rifle were so squared away that the drill instructor lit the smoking lamp for me while standing in front of the rest of the platoon,” said Bill. “The Marine Corps shaped me into the man I am today.”
The three brothers were discharged honorably after each serving four years active duty. Although their lives took them in different paths for many years, they managed to reconnect.
“Once we graduated from high school, we lost track of each other for the most part,” said Bill. “There were times when we didn't see each other for many years, but we finally started connecting more frequently over the past eight to ten years, then annually over the past four.”
The three brothers, along with their older brother Richard, who became Professor at San Diego State University, decided to connect this year at the Command Museum board Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
“I enjoyed the visit to the Museum very much,” said Jerry. “Some of my first thoughts were about the young men who I went through boot camp with. I recall us being a disorganized bunch of civilians and how over time our drill instructors were able to mold us into a platoon that we were proud to belong to.”
Jim also enjoyed his experience coming back to the depot and recalled moments from long ago.
“Just being back at MCRD brought back a lot of memories of a young 18 year old boy who became a man,” said Jim. “A man who had gained confidence in himself which helped carry him through life's ups and downs, making good decisions along the way.”
For Bill, the experience was slightly different from the others, but it was just as enjoyable.
“Those volunteers that work at the Museum have done a great job with the displays and do a good job describing each,” said Bill. “Part of the emotion for me was that one of the docents was my former sergeant that I had served with 49 years ago. He was my mentor.”
Bill Westmoreland, a docent and retired first sergeant was Bill’s leader many years ago and also enjoyed reminiscing old stories of when they were younger.
Returning to the depot gave the brothers a chance to remember their past and to rekindle their relationship with each other once again.
“We used to not visit very often because we are so spread out in the country,” said Bill. “But since we are all in our 70's we felt we need to see each other more often. We feel we'd better not wait around too long to visit each other.”