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John Wright Exemplifies Military and Community Service

Writer / Grace Schaefer
Photography Provided

John WrightMuch of John Wright’s family served in the Marine Corps, so when he enlisted in 1964, joining was a right of passage – a kind of family inheritance. He traveled to Parris Island, South Carolina, for recruit training, and then went on to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he served with the 3rd Battalion 8th Marines, under the 2nd Marine Division.

He arrived in the Republic of Vietnam in March of 1966, served as an infantry fire team leader and a squad leader with the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines under the 3rd Marine Division, was wounded twice, and was medically retired out of the Marine Corps. Wright’s hard work and service didn’t end after his time in Vietnam, however. After returning to Kentucky, he went to college and pursued graduate studies in fine arts. He taught in trade schools and at the University of Louisville. After moving to Jeffersontown, Wright got involved with the Marine Corps League, as well as the American Legion, where he continues to hold a position as service officer at the Legion’s GI Joe Post 244.

In 1995, Wright spoke to the Jeffersontown mayor, on behalf of the Legion, about the possibility of finding a small area near Jeffersontown City Hall where a flag could be displayed for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Instead of a small, simple place of honor, the mayor offered the blueprints for a new community park, saying that the Legion could have the entire place as a memorial, which they named Veterans Memorial Park. The first Memorial Day and Veterans Day services at the park were held in a trailer while the grounds were still under construction. The services have grown much since that time, now drawing hundreds of attendees each year, and the park now displays a helicopter, tank, naval guns, and towering 60-foot flagpole.

The park is also home to the Walk of Veterans, a path of more than 6,000 brick pavers, many of which are inscribed in honor of specific veterans. Each completed brick lists a veteran’s name, branch of service and years of service. Notations are also available to indicate those soldiers who were wounded in action or missing in action, those who were prisoners of war, and those who are fallen soldiers. The bricks are not limited to certain members of the armed forces, and anyone who is serving or has honorably served is eligible. Over six-month periods, Wright and the Legion members collect applications for new brick pavers. Around 80 to 90 new stones are dedicated at each Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremony as the American Legion, alongside the Jeffersontown community, continues to honor the service of our nation’s armed forces and veterans.

John WrightAs chairman of Veterans Memorial Park through the American Legion, Wright develops the program and works on the upcoming brick pavers about six months before either the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. During these ceremonies, the mayor gives a welcome to the attendees, a keynote speaker delivers a speech, and new brick pavers are dedicated in the Walk of Veterans. The impact that Wright and the American Legion have on the Jeffersontown community continues to grow. Having started with the simple idea of placing a flag near city hall, these veterans have created opportunities for the Jeffersontown community to celebrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and honor those who have served while visiting the beautiful and welcoming Veterans Memorial Park. The park is also a blessing to those outside of Jeffersontown, whether traveling through while on vacation or simply driving by after school or work, by providing a well-kept, spacious place to enjoy nature and history. The veterans are leaving a legacy in the park, and current and future generations will be reminded of the service of our nation’s armed forces as they picnic and play on the park’s sprawling 27 acres.

Wright and the Legion provide services to veterans specifically and their community in general, through various means. To begin, Veterans Memorial Park runs as a nonprofit. The Legion’s generosity truly shines through as they put funds collected from the purchases of brick pavers toward veteran’s causes and issues. The cost of the brick pavers also goes toward having the bricks laid, and toward new monuments in the park. With funds raised at the Legion’s GI Joe Post 244, the veterans were also able to leave a lasting impact for future generations by funding the construction of the confidence course for the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). Wright works personally with the JROTC, and was once a keynote speaker and guest of honor during their graduation ceremony.

As a certified service officer, Wright also helps veterans file claims with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, representing them as an attorney would. By attending hearings and arguing cases using his military experience, Wright provides invaluable assistance to veterans in need of representation. His service to veterans speaks volumes for the American Legion and for Wright’s character. He is willing to take the time to focus on the needs of a specific veteran in order to give them the best service possible. Alongside the Legion, Wright also assists in military reunions and ceremonies held in Kentucky. The Legion provides a color guard and a memorial service, and they will also conduct honorary gun salutes and play “Taps.”

John WrightWright and other American Legion members also meet the needs of grieving military families. Due to the large number of veterans’ funerals, active duty military personnel are unable to serve in every funeral service. To ensure that veterans can still have a proper military funeral, Wright and other American Legion members serve during military funerals by holding gun salutes and playing “Taps” to honor the veteran.

Wright still remains active in the Marine Corps League and the American Legion, as well as the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines Association. He is also a member of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 146, and many other organizations. His various decorations and awards include a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation and many more.

Wright also lays claim to another honor – the American Legion’s GI Joe Post 244 hosts the largest known flag retirement ceremony in the world. The post even has a drop-off for any flags ready to be retired. These flags are then collected and stored. The retirement ceremony that follows is a beautiful event that the community is welcome to attend.

Wright remains humble despite these honors, titles and achievements. He works methodically and tirelessly to help veterans in need of assistance. He plans events for veterans and their community to enjoy. All in all, Wright is still serving his home and nation just as loyally as he did when he enlisted in 1964. His service to all, especially to veterans, reflects the strength of his compassion, the camaraderie of the American Legion, and the honor of his military calling.

3 Comments

Chuck Cooper
October 30, 2021 at 11:17 am

John Wright is a great man!! I am proud to be his neighbor. Thank you for your tremendous service to our veterans and our country, Sir!!

John Bochan
October 30, 2021 at 11:48 am

Without the dedicated commitment of John to the service of his fellow veterans, many would have not received the benefits to which they were entitled. American Legion G.I. Joe Post #244 is fortunate to have such a dedicated member who continues his service to his fellow vets and the community at large.

John J. Bochan, American Legion Post #244 Past Post Adjutant, 4th Infantry Division, RVN, 1968.

Bill and bobbin mcmahan
October 30, 2021 at 3:11 pm

Well deserved thank you for doing what you do to help veterans and thank you for your service

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