July 27, 2010

Name: America's 1st Sgt
Posting date: 7/27/10
Stationed in: Bahrain
Milblog: Castra Praetoria

"The Department of Defense announced the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Cpl. Joe L. Wrightsman, 23, of Jonesboro, La., died July 18 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii."

Framed AmFirst Wrightman 1
A Marine carry team lifts a transfer case containing the remains of Cpl. Joe L. Wrightsman, Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

While all of the above is true it doesn't sit well with me to merely leave you with that sanitized version of events. As someone who knew Cpl Wrightsman's character, I will do my best to paint for you, the citizens he served, a better picture of an American fighting man.

To the best of my knowledge, this is what happened:

On July 18, Cpl Wrightsman was part of a patrol crossing the Helmand River when an ANP (Afghan National Police) was swept away in the river behind him. Without hesitation, Cpl Wrightsman, in full personal protective gear, dove into the water in an effort to rescue the ANP. He was last seen about 50 ft. downstream when he surfaced briefly. Four other Marines dropped their gear and went in after him, but were unable to find anything.

From what I understand, the entire Marine Expeditionary Force threw its efforts into recovering Cpl Wrightsman. Every type of asset, aircraft, equipment, and personnel were employed. Taliban forces were beginning to move in from the north in an effort to capture Cpl Wrightsman's body before the Marines. They were thwarted after two days when both bodies were recovered by the Americans.

In the picture below you can see then-Lance Corporal Wrightsman standing directly behind me, serving as guidon bearer for Kilo Company 3/3 when we were getting ready to leave Fallujah and head home in 2008.

Framed AmFirst Wrightsman 2

I remember Wrightsman had a tattoo of the Green Lantern symbol. Many young men have joined the corps with dreams of doing exploits. No doubt Wrightsman was no different, hoping to emulate the valor of his childhood heroes.

Framed AmFirst Wrightsman 3
Graduating from Marine corps Martial Arts Instructor Course, Al Asad, Iraq, 2009.

Framed AmFirst Wrightsman 4
Hamming it up with the Company 1st Sgt during the Marine Corps Birthday, November 2007.

Upon hearing what happened on July 18, nearly every one of us that knew him immediately thought: "But Wrightsman can't swim!" Fortunately, America still breeds men with a bias for action who don't dwell on what they can't do. I imagine Cpl Wrightsman thought to himself: "I can't let this guy down!" Then he heedlessly went after a man who wasn't a fellow Marine or even an American.

One of my last acts as Kilo Company 1st Sgt was to submit Wrightsman for meritorious promotion to Corporal. At the time of his death his current 1st Sgt had submitted him for meritorious Sergeant. It was recently remarked to me that all Cpl Wrightsman cared about was being a Marine and taking care of his squad. Yeah, that's just about my breed of Marine I'd say.

"And each man stand with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can."
                                                                                                -- Elizabeth Barret Browning

Semper Fidelis      


Wow, what an awesome tribute for an awesome Marine. Thank you for sharing CPL.Wrightsmans life with us.
Our prayers go out to you all and his family.

Your article reminds me why I was proud to have served our Country as a United States Marine. There are countless Cpl Wrightsmans out there.

Well Said 1st Sgt.

who didnt train his men to ford a river ?

Dang it, 1st Sgt, I'm sitting in a public place with tears running down my cheeks. Cpl Wrightsman is a true Marine and lived up to the honor of the Corps. To keep tragedies like this from happening again 1st Sgt, please make sure your Marines can at least tread water. Good Marines like Cpl Wrightsman are worth keeping around, and alive.

Crying, again

We spent 2006-07-08 in Bahrain. Please, please, get those young Marines in the pool at the Naval Support Activity and drownproof them. Being able to swim is as essential as being able to drive a vehicle.

being able to swim is not enough. For civilian rescue, this would be a swift water rescue that involves a lot more than swimming.
As stated, Cpl. Wrightsman went in to rescue a fellow warrior. His fellow Americans recovered both of these men preventing the Taliban from desecrating them and demonstrating that no one is left behind. May the people of Afghanistan, and America, remember this Marine and all who serve.
Take care.

I didn't know him personally but he is my boyfriend brother best friend so He was family Truly he not only loved his job he had compassion for people He truly will be missed may God bless his soul R.I.P Joe Wrightsman....GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Tnank you for sharing this story with the world. Wow, what an amazing soldier. People like CPL. Wrightsman are why we are safe. I truley appericiate all you troops do.

Thank you so much for sharing this story with the world. This man showed great heroism by doing what he did, and it really touched my heart to read through your post and know that we have people out there like this man, who would risk their lives to save others, despite if they are American or a fellow Marine like himself. This post has brought out a mixture of feelings from me ranging from sadness to admiration for this man. His friends and family, although hurting, must be proud to have known such an honorable man.

try treading water in 100+ lbs of gear.... in a strong current.. after being on a patrol for who knows how long... i knew this Marine personally and you would have to look long and hard to find a better or more selfless Marine.

I think US should stop wat there

I am a great aunt of Joe Wrightsman and I miss him dearly. I find myself searching for articles as this one to remember his bravery. He knew when he joined the Marines he would have to fight. For selfish reasons I tryed to talked him out of serving, to no avail, he was called and he answered the call. To hear other marines share their feelings towards him are truly appreicated.

Thank you!

Auntie Esther

It just goes to show, that when that adrenaline kicks in, you don't think of nothing but what's in front you. Cpl Wrightman wasn't thinking " I can't swim", he was thinking " I got to save this man". Lots of people don't think of their own life when they see someone in danger, all they think about is trying to them and that's what a good soldier does. R.I.P. Cpl Joe Wrightman

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