Friday, January 15, 2010
His Star Has Turned From Blue to Gold
ROMEOVILLE — A Romeoville soldier who followed in the military footsteps of his father and grandfather, has been killed in Afghanistan.
Army Spc. Kyle J. Wright, 22, was killed Wednesday in the line of duty when the Stryker vehicle he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Kyle Wright, a 2006 graduate from Romeoville High School, was the only person who died in the incident, said his father, Rich Wright, of Romeoville.
Flags fly at half-staff outside Army Spc. Kyle J. Wright's home in Romeoville on Thursday. Wright, a 2006 graduate of Romeoville High School, was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday in Afghanistan. “They were interdicting drugs and weapons on the main highway in Afghanistan,” he said.
“He was a hell of a stand-up kid. ... He was a professional soldier. He took it very seriously. He had three Army achievement medals. Everything he did, he did to the full extent,” said Rich Wright who is an employee in Valley View School District with his wife and Kyle’s stepmom, Tiffany Wright.
A day before Kyle Wright was killed, he sent an e-mail to his father with a link from a CNN story about interdicting approximately $40 million in drugs.
“It was the third big bust that they had. They were doing a hell of a job as far as interdicting,” Rich Wright said. “They were interdicting the drug trafficking along that road and clearing the road of IEDs. Obviously, they didn’t clear them all.
Full military honors
Rich Wright’s son-in-law, Sgt. Zachary Greene, who is also deployed in Afghanistan and was Kyle Wright’s supply sergeant, identified the body at the air base at Kandahar. He will escort the body home.
“It’s like a nightmare that’s not going to end,” Rich Wright said. Rich Wright had planned to leave Thursday afternoon for Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Kyle Wright requested a funeral with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery and Rich Wright said they were trying to make that happen.
“There was nothing extraordinary about him. But then he was extraordinary in every way. He had a sense of honor. There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who stand up and those who don’t. He was a stander-upper,” Rich Wright recalled.
For the Wright men, joining the military was an honor.
“I’m a vet. His grandfather was a vet. He was third generation,” Rich Wright said.
Kyle’s grandfather, 1st Sgt. Ruben John Wright, is buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II, Korea and Vietnam for 27 years. Rich Wright was a medic in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, serving six years. Kyle Wright was in the Alpha Company, Second Battalion, First Infantry Regiment, Fifth Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division deployed in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2006. He learned Arabic at Defense Language Institute at Fort Lewis where he was stationed in Washington.
“(Kyle) was in the Army’s newest Stryker brigade. He was fluent in Arabic,” Rich Wright said.
Kyle Wright was deployed to Afghanistan in July and planned to return a year later.
Flags throughout Valley View School District flew at half staff Thursday following word of Kyle Wright’s death.
Kyle Wright attended Timber Ridge Middle School and Plainfield South High School for his freshman year before transferring to Romeoville High School where he graduated in 2006.
Lindy Steeves, assistant principal at Romeoville High School, has a picture of Wright in his military uniform on her wall in her office.
Steeves recalled Kyle Wright’s love for his Mustang.
“He had a Mustang. He was taking autos. He brought his Mustang to school all the time. The auto teacher helped him repair the Mustang,” Steeves said. “One of the things that he was very passionate about was — he wanted to go into the service. He wanted to serve his country.”
Kyle Wright is survived by his father and stepmother Rich and Tiffany Wright, his stepbrother Justin Rhodes and stepsister, Kayla LeVine, all from Romeoville, and his mother, Lynn Perry and sisters Krystal Greene and Kelly Wright of Webster, N.Y., and his grandmother, Joyce Wright of Missouri. He has two nephews.
Stepsister Kayla LeVine, 20, grew up with Kyle Wright, attending Romeoville High School together.
“Kyle and I grew up to be very good friends. ... He was just a regular old kid. ... He did well in school. He always wanted to go into the Army,” she said. “He always wanted to be a military guy. His father was his role model. He really looked forward to going into the Army and following his father’s footsteps, and he always just wanted to make his dad proud. ... That is what he wanted in life was to make his dad proud of him.”
Stepbrother Justin Rhodes, 16, a sophomore at RHS, said he wanted to follow Kyle’s footsteps and join the military. He is currently in the U.S. Marine Corps Junior ROTC — just like his big brother did at RHS.
“He was my role model. He was who I wanted to be like. He was the one who got me into skateboarding, riding bikes, fast cars,” Rhodes said. “He taught me everything a teenager needs to know. ... His first car was a Mustang. He always had a thing about fast cars.”
Fighting for freedom
Levine and Rhodes said they learned a lot from their older brother.
“Freedom isn’t free. Freedom is not free and that saying will get tossed around your whole life. Until it really hits home you never really realized what that saying is,” LeVine said. “He died serving for our country — for our freedom.
“In our home, we respected the people who fought for our freedom. Our family is a very military-oriented group. We are very proud to be Americans,” Levine said. “Things are not handed to you in life. Everybody fights for something for everybody else. That’s what Kyle was doing. Kyle was fighting to keep our country safe.”
Kyle Wright got to come home briefly in November, visiting his family in New York, Washington and Romeoville.
“We were fortunate enough that he got that early release because if not — the last time we saw him was in the summer,” LeVine said.
By CATHERINE ANN VELASCO STAFF WRITER - THE PLAINFIELD SUN