KOSCIUSKO — Paul Wright, Winona Lake, was honored as the veteran of the month at the Kosciusko Commissioners meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Wright was born in Dowagiac, Mich. on Oct. 14, 1946, to John and Ione Wright. He lived in Union, Mich. until going to college at Tristate. He attended Tristate for one year but said it didn’t work out. Wright recalls wondering why the draft board had not contacted him. His father advised him to just leave it alone, but Wright instead contacted the draft board and inquired as to why they had not called. It turned out that there were two Paul Wrights – the other Paul lived in Union City. The draft board discovered they had missed the Paul Wright living in Union. Within one week after the initial contact, Wright was drafted.
Wright attended Penn Quaker Church in Cassopolis, Mich., meaning he could have qualified as a conscientious objector, described as “an individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service” on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience or religion. However, Wright and his cousin went to Vietnam.
Wright served in Vietnam from November 1967 to September 1968. He was a proud member of the 173rd Airborne 4th Battalion 503rd. He was stationed in the Central Highlands of Tuy Hoa. Wright was wounded on Dec. 28, 1967. From November 1967 to February 1968, over 30 men in Wright’s unit were killed in action. Twenty-two of those men were killed on Hill 875, a major battle in and near Dak To. On Thanksgiving Day, a ceremony was held honoring 186 men killed and over 400 wounded.
The 173rd mission was to locate and destroy enemy troops. They averaged one to two heliborne assaults a week when intel spotted enemy activity. They maneuvered the mountains three to five times daily. Contact with the North Vietnamese army came in the form of sniper attacks on their unit, with at least one or two men being wounded each time.
Company D of 150 men was assigned to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in August of 1968. Wright and nine other men were sent to set up and ambush on the main trail. They were to engage any enemy forces that approached their position. This would give command post a heads up regarding the movement of the enemies. Wright’s unit was overrun two weeks later, but by then Wright had been sent by Medevac to Japan for heart issues. From Japan, Wright was sent back to the United States where he served out his time at Fort Bragg.
Wright received multiple awards and ribbons, including the Purple Heart. After serving in Vietnam, Wright attended college at Taylor University in Upland, then traveled with an evangelistic team for three years.
He also studied at Grace Theological Seminary. For over twenty years, Wright was a trim carpenter. He was a master staircase builder for fifteen years in Fort Wayne.
“Paul is a close friend who served his country well in Vietnam,” said Wright’s friend, Dennis Buhrt. “Since his return, he has a real love for the Vietnamese people, traveling to Vietnam and sharing the gospel with the Vietnamese people on several occasions.”
Wright is now retired. He and his wife, Melody, have been married for 42 years. Their three children, Abraham, Hannah and Luke, and their ten grandchildren all live in the area.