Spc. 4 Ronald Wright was an Army medic assigned to an airborne infantry platoon during the Vietnam War and, as the unit moved through a ravine deep in hostile territory on May 18, 1967, it came under heavy attack.
Wright was trying to treat and move to safety as many of the wounded as he could. He heard a call for help from an injured Soldier as the battle intensified and began working his way to him through a hail of gunfire, according to a citation with the Distinguished Service Cross that Wright later received.
“I took a round to the left side of my face,” he recalled. “It entered, crushed my gums and teeth. My tongue was pierced,” and a tooth was knocked out on the right side.
Wright administered aid and moved the Soldier to safety and, refusing aid for himself, he dashed through gunfire to reach another casualty, carrying the Soldier through Viet Cong fire and treating him, the citation reads.
“I wasn’t just praying trying to survive,” said Wright, who covered his injuries with a hip bandage he pulled from his medical bag. “I was praying trying to get through it by doing my job.” He said that if he was going to die that day, “I wanted to go down doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Wright, who still has pieces of metal lodged in the left side of his face, received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. He also received a Purple Heart.
Wright was one of four former service members inducted this month into the Madison County Military Heritage Commission’s Hall of Heroes.
Wright, a Macon, Georgia, native, was 19 when he was drafted in 1966 and went on to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, which has been renamed Fort Moore, then combat medical training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and airborne training at Fort Benning.
His brigade landed at Tuy Hoa Air Base in late 1966 and deployed for missions in locations including Dak To and Da Nang.
“There were constant firefights, search and destroy missions, people getting hurt,” Wright said. “Every day someone was getting wounded or killed and I had the responsibility of trying to care for them. When you’re facing death and danger every day, it’s hard to cope. That’s where faith came in for me.”
Every chance he got, Wright prayed and read the New Testament pocket-sized Bible that Soldiers were given.
“I was just praying, Lord, help me stay safe, help me do my job, help me be there for them.”
After Wright was injured, he was transported by medical evacuation to a field hospital in Vietnam where he spent the next month. Then he spent about five months in other hospitals in Japan, the Philippines and Fort Gordon, now named Fort Eisenhower, before returning to active duty with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which was renamed Fort Liberty.
Wright left the military to pursue a college education, first attending Georgia State before transferring to Oakwood University, where he received a bachelor’s in religion in 1974. He also earned a master’s in pastoral ministry from Andrews University in Michigan.
Wright met his wife, Equilla, at Oakwood, and the couple married in 1969. They have a son, Ron Jr., who’s with the Huntsville Police Department, and a daughter, Melanie, a family therapist; and seven grandchildren.
“Helping people kind of stuck with me,” Wright said with a smile. “I couldn’t be a doctor so maybe I can save souls.”
Wright, who’s in his 70s, was a minister for nearly 50 years in Seventh-Day Adventist churches in Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia. The Wrights also served in missions work for about 10 years in Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa and in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda in East Africa.
In 2018, the couple returned to Huntsville since their children and five of their grandchildren live in the Huntsville area. Wright is now a volunteer minister with the Triana Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The annual Hall of Heroes induction ceremony, held during the Veterans Dinner Nov. 10, recognized four former and retired service members who received decorations for acts of valor. A Hall of Heroes display is in the lobby at
the Madison County Courthouse.
“I’m not a hero, but I can honor God by accepting this and have a chance to give him honor and tell people, I’m not a hero, God is,” Wright said. “I wasn’t so brave to do all this. God helped me do it, so I thank him for protecting me and helping me do what I did.
“Whatever I did, it was God motivating me, empowering me, activating me, helping me do it.”