Idaho man selflessly supported Marines prior to death
By Derinda Moerer
NW Baptist Witness,
COEUR D’ ALENE, Idaho — Honored as a soldier, Josh Wright, 31, died Sept. 13. His ashes were scattered at Fort Pendleton by the local Marine Corps. Nothing too unusual, except that Wright wasn’t a Marine; he never had been. Wright marched to the recruitment office shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq. Due to a debilitating illness, he was denied the privilege to serve his country. But that didn’t stop Wright from serving the Marines. Emails, discovered by his twin sister Monica Preciado, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, during his last week of life, confirmed his involvement with the Marines.
“Please know we’ll always think of you as a Marine.”
“God will reward you for all your unselfish acts. I can’t begin to tell you how we appreciate your support.”
“If you ever approach heaven’s gates, you’ll find it guarded by U.S. Marines, of which you are a brother for life.”
This acceptance into such a tight group came about from the deeds of kindness Wright offered them. It began by sending care packages to his brother-in-law. Within months it was like he was running a small business, sending not just boxes of cookies and candies, but truck loads of extras.
He would apply a label to each box that said, “To any Marine, from Josh Wright.”
At Christmas in 2005 Josh provided a 900-man unit in Iraq with several fully decorated Christmas trees accompanied by stuffed stockings for every Marine, along with crates of warm clothes and Christmas lights.
According to an interview with the Coeur d’Alene Press his close friend Sgt. Major George Lassiter said, “It was huge, like having home come to you. It reminded them of their loved ones and helped them stay focused.”
His desire to help Marines exceeded his bank account, so he went to companies and other department stores asking them to donate items soldiers needed. Such was the case when Wright persuaded Costco to donate hundreds of pairs of socks when he heard the Marines needed socks. He heard their wives needed diapers for babies at home, so he called Pampers. A 40-foot truck arrived at his home and he delivered the diapers.
“He just had a way of conning people into donating things,” said his mother Penny Wright. “Don’t ask me how he did it, but he did.”
At Emmanuel’s Veteran’s Day service Wright’s mother reflected on the many Marines who showed up at his door to say thanks. “They would have just come back from Iraq and come by just to meet him. It was amazing.”
His friend Lassiter relayed to reporter Alecia Warren of the Press a meeting that Wright had with Gen. James Amos at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina. The article stated:
In his office, Gen. Amos explained how he had led the forces that invaded Baghdad and eventually captured Saddam Hussein.
The Marines pushed on for days on little sleep or water, Amos said, and he worried he was pushing them too hard.
Yet he would occasionally stumble across groups of men and women laughing and joking, and they explained that some guy named Josh Wright had been sending socks and candy and magazines.
“He started finding the boxes everywhere, and it boosted the morale so much among the men,” Lassiter remembered from the man’s story. “That told him it was OK to push harder and take Baghdad.”
At this point, the general reached into his pocket, handed his three stars to Josh, and said: “I could not have done that without you.”
Lassiter was dumb-founded.“This is the man who rode into Baghdad in an armored vehicle, took the city from Saddam Hussein and took the country, and he gave Josh the stars he wore when he did that,” he said. “For him to give his stars to Josh meant he was very touched by what Josh did. That’s a big honor amongst us Marines.”
Besides the three stars Josh kept many other souvenirs soldiers sent him to show their appreciation: American flags, medal coins, cloth badges, t-shirts, and an Afghani voting ballot.
A young man with a weakened physical heart had a huge heart for giving. He was a hero among Marines. If the men needed something, he did whatever was necessary to fill that need. “Mom, it’s just the little things they need,” his mother remembered her son saying after she and husband Neil Wright accepted an American flag and a Marine flag at the church service honoring all service men. “He just wanted to do something for them, and by doing so, it gave him meaning in life.”
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