The Re-interment of Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr. and Ouida F. McLendon Wright
Arlington National Cemetery
March 10, 2014
March 3-Sp5 Wyley Wright will be disinterred from Mount Olive Cemetery in Jacksonville, FL by Wilbert Vault and re-casketed by Carthage Funeral Home.
March 4-Sp5 Wyley Wright will be flown to Columbus, Georgia & Ouida F. Wright will be disinterred by Green Acres Cemetery in Columbus, GA and her remains joined with her husband’s by Taylor’s Funeral Home of Phenix City, AL. (Thanks to Sconiers Funeral Home of Columbus, GA for consultation services.)
March 5-Sp5 Wyley Wright and Ouida F. Wright will be flown to Washington D.C. Greene Funeral Home of Alexandria, VA will have oversight.
March 10th- The day after the 50th and 44th death anniversaries of Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr. and Ouida F. Wright- Commemoration and Re-burial. Greene Funeral Home will officiate at Arlington National Cemetery 3:00 p.m.
Why Honor Father and Mother?
Memorials and Honoring the Dead were an integral part of the life of Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr. Every opportunity for leave from the U.S. Army and a visit home, he always cleaned and brought flowers to his mother and other family members’ graves. He felt it was his sacred duty.
News accounts over the years of monies set aside to improve the gravesites in northern Jacksonville, predominantly Black, were encouraging, yet the accounts did not manifest into reality. Mt. Olive was lush and green in March of 1964.
Upon a visit to Sp5 Wyley Wright’s grave at Mt. Olive Cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida at the Simmons Family Reunion July 4th Weekend 2012, the Wright children became resolved to have their father’s grave moved from the segregated cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery.
Why Arlington National Cemetery as the final resting place of their parents? The siblings express that their father gave the ultimate sacrifice for the United States of America and as such they wanted his sacrifice to be remembered in a place that generations of family members could more easily access. He will now rest along with the “wife of his youth,” near the Potomac River, across from the Lincoln Memorial and closer to the Viet Nam War Memorial, “The Wall” where he is listed at panel 1 E, Row 46.
Sp5 Wyley Wright’s death, March 9, 1964 while on an added mission (He had successfully completed all his regular assignments honorably and had received awards for his service.) as an honor guard for Secretary of Defense Robert S. (Strange) McNamara received national and local media attention. CBS’ Walter Cronkite told of the incident during the CBS national news with footage of the recovered wreckage. The Florida Star (Black newspaper in Jacksonville, Florida) and Florida Times Union carried articles including the funeral at Grant Memorial Church.
Sp5 Wyley Wright was sent to Viet Nam as an “adviser” under President John F. Kennedy’s Administration. Just over 90 days of his Commander and Chief’s death, November 22, 1963, Wright died during the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration.
The difficulty of being among the groundbreaking, first U.S. aviation company in South Viet Nam is described in http://www.145thcab.com/
Spiritually speaking, the death on March 9, 1964 of Sp5 Wyley Wright and PFC John Francis Shea of Willimantic, Connecticut, who was only twenty days from celebrating his 21st birthday, was a sign to Secretary of Defense McNamara. “The two witnesses” as referenced in the Holy Bible were ignored. McNamara escalated the war during the Johnson administration and went to his death on July 6, 2009 at the age of 93 regretting his actions. His 1995 memoir, “In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam and the Oscar-winning documentary film “The Fog of War” expressed those regrets.
The Wright siblings are reminded that their father lost a fellow soldier at the time of his death, young John Francis Shea, who was childless. His sacrifice is not forgotten. The impact of his death on his mother and family cannot be fully expressed and understood. No parent wants to bury his or her child. The Shea and Wright families’ stories are a part of the 58,000 U.S. men and women who died in Viet Nam, a chapter among the millions, who shed their blood for the commonwealth of the United States of America.
Description of Wright’s and Shea’s deaths, Incident 62-01961 is posted in the Gold Book:
The loss of their parents, Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr. (born December 7, 1931 in White House, Florida, a District of Jacksonville, Florida; died March 9, 1964, South Viet Nam) and Ouida F. McLendon Wright (born January 10, 1935 in Ozark, Dale County, Alabama- died March 9, 1970 at Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia), while they were both in their early thirties, had a major impact of the Wright siblings. Their parents’ death was not spoken of among them openly until 2008. As a result of lessons learned the Wright siblings would advise the families of fallen soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to talk often and very early on about their loss. Unresolved pain delays healing.
Family members such as their maternal grandmother, Willie Bell Williams McLendon helped them mold into the people they are today, raising them until the oldest Jackquelyn, at age 20, began raising her 15 year old brother and 10 year old sister and the eldest son went into the Army. A great work ethic was instilled by their parents and reinforced by family members. (Jackquelyn earned two degrees from the University of Georgia while raising her teenage sister and elementary age daughter.) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been the foundation for their prevailing as fatherless and motherless children to overcome many destructive challenges in U.S. society.
The distinctive Tennessee stone home, 1103 Bedford Avenue, Columbus, Georgia built by their mother from their father’s Metropolitan Life Insurance proceeds was lost to foreclosure in the mid 1980’s. Neighbors and cousins, Katie and Robert Morris (U.S. Army Veteran), much like the biblical principle of kinsman redeemer, bought the home to keep it in the family and turned it into a senior services home in alignment with Ouida F. Wright’s philosophy of being of service to others.
Although Ouida F. Wright was buried in Green Acres Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia, a well-kept perpetual property, the Wright siblings decided to join their parents’ remains since they had a great love for each other. It was a photo of Ouida F. McLendon, “Miss Frederick Douglass” of Phenix City, Alabama that caught Sp5 Wright’s eye and heart with love at first sight, as a fellow soldier, Cecil Griffin dropped the picture on the ship floor as they traveled across the Pacific Ocean returning from the Korean War. Wright picked it up and asked for an introduction. The rest is history as they say.
In lieu of flowers, those wishing to express sentiments of commemoration and congratulations to the family can do so by contributing to the “Wright Place” Senior Facility that is being launched in Pittsburg, CA by Wright sibling Phyllis Cameron and her husband, Woodrow Cameron. Via PayPal (www.paypal.com)
The Wright Siblings: Jackie Wright (60) is a former broadcast news reporter and nonprofit executive including the American Red Cross, who owns a media company, Wright Enterprises (www.wrightnow.biz)
War separated Sp5 Wright and his wife. Honor brings them back together in a final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, March 10, 2014 at 3:00 p.m.
Media Advisory-Sp5 Wyley and Ouida Wright Re-interment
Orangburg, SC Son & Family Honor Viet Nam Hero Honor Guard for Secretary of Defense McNamara
Columbus Veteran To Honor Father and Mother at Arlington National Cemetery
Asian Week Article 2010 on San Francisco Reunion
News Release 2010 on San Francisco Reunion
Gold Book Describing Death of Sp5 Wright and PFC Shea on March 9, 1964
Battalion History of 114th- “Knights of the Air”(First Army Aviation Unit in Viet Nam) Outlining the difficulty of missions: http://www.145thcab.com/
Media Contact: Kelly Armstrong, 415 525 0410