"Veterans Day is one moment in time that we reflect on those who served this country via the military, but their service goes beyond that one day of recognition and it is important to know that soldiers' families serve the country as well," said Phyllis Wright Cameron. "That fact was reinforced as my MBA program took us to Vietnam, the land where my father died as an honor guard for Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, March 9, 1964 when I was six months old."
Fours days before meeting her cohort of Cal State East Bay's Global Innovators MBA Program in Ho Chi Minh City for a 10 day educational tour, Phyllis arrived in Vietnam, June 15, 2015 with her sister, Jackie Wright of San Francisco, who was ten years old at the time of their father's death. Jackie is the eldest of Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr. and Ouida Wright's four children that include brothers Joe Wright of Columbus, Georgia and Stanley Wright of Orangeburg, South Carolina. The Wrights grew up in Columbus, Georgia near Fort Benning.
Once in Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by many locals, the sisters hit the road 7:30 a.m., the next day meeting up with guide Hung Phan Ngoc, who grew up during the Vietnam War, to go to Vinh Long, the home base of the 114th Aviation Company. The base had been named the Shannon Wright Compound, in honor of their father, a helicopter crew chief and Lieutenant Kenneth Arthur Shannon, a helicopter pilot, who had died March 15, 1964.
|Shannon Wright Compound Vinh Long, Vietnam
For most of their lives, the Wright siblings had no idea that their father's comrades had named their base in honor of him. It was just a few years ago that Jackie found the 114th Aviation Company website: http://www.114thaviationcompany.com
and saw the Shannon Wright Compound photo taken by then Commander George Young. It never dawned on her that it was in honor of her father and it took several months of correspondence with soldiers over the Internet before the significance was realized.
The Cal State Global Innovators MBA Program
set up an opportunity that Phyllis and Jackie and their brothers had no idea was coming just a year before when on March 10, 2014 they laid their father to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, fifty years after their father's death at age 31, March 9, 1964. They also buried their mother, Ouida F. McClendon Wright, with their father, 44 years after her death at age 35, March 9, 1970.
In Sp5 Wright's last tribute of love to his wife of eleven years, he commissioned a Vietnamese photographer in Vinh Long to make anniversary gifts: to have a wallet size photo of his wife that he carried enlarged and to make a photo of himself which he signed "To Ouida, the Love of My Life."
Jackie Wright and sister Phyllis Cameron show Quang Thi Anh Dao the treasured work of her father that graces the homes of the four Wright siblings. Hung Phan Ngoc interprets. "Your father's work is the main point of reference Phyllis has of our parents as she was six months old when our Dad died and six years old when our mother died," said Jackie.
The goals of the sisters in traveling to Vietnam were to find the Shannon Wright Compound in Vinh Long, find the studio that produced the photos of their parents that each of the Wright siblings have in their home, and to conduct a short ceremony of remembrance to honor their father, the fallen 58,000 U.S. soldiers and the Vietnamese who were impacted by the war as well.
"It was amazing, the absolutely amazing grace of God that we accomplished all of our goals in one day trip, said Cameron. "It was beyond what we could imagine because we found "Shannon Wright Compound and thanks to our knowledgeable and personable guide, Mr. Hung, we not only found the studio, we met the family of the photographer who had made our father's anniversary gifts. The daughter of Quang Van Phat was a photographer also following in her father's footsteps. This all happened as Father's Day was fast approaching."
Cameron and Wright spoke with Quang Thi Anh Dao and her mother, Mrs. Quang. Ms. Quang showed them the stamp machine that her father used to signify his work and shared that he made his livelihood from equipment that was abandoned when the French left Vietnam.
"After we left the Quang home we bought flowers and a wreath and we went to the Mekong River between Vinh Long and Sadec and paid tribute to our Dad, the soldiers and the people of Vietnam," said Cameron.
"I am very thankful to Cal State East Bay and The Global Innovator MBA program. Not only has it enriched me as an insurance executive, it provided a link to my family and country's history that I probably would not have experienced had it not been for the program," added Cameron." With her cohorts, Cameron visited Vietnamese based businesses in Ho Chi Minh, Hue and Hanoi as part of the MBA program.
In a kismet moment, Jackie Wright, a part-time Executive Director at I.T. Bookman Community Center greets I.T. Bookman Center Computer Volunteer Kevin Grimes of Visa International, a cohort of Phyllis Cameron's Global Innovators MBA Program with fellow student Donna Nguyen at the Pullman Hotel-Saigon Centre.
The Wright's story is one of millions of military families and shows that when a veteran serves, the family serves as well. On having their father's remains moved from a cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida and their mother's from a cemetery in Columbus, Georgia to be joined at Arlington National Cemetery during it's 150th Anniversary year 2014, Jackie spoke to media in Columbus, Georgia stating that their mother had been a good wife traveling to all the bases she could with her husband. It was only fitting that she should follow him to be honored at Arlington.
Veterans don't serve alone.
Fathers Are Forever
Beyond Selma: Black and White Families Bond for Honor
What God has Joined Together
Resources for Tours to Vietnam
Joe Lucero 劉逸男 | Director, Services ( He put us in touch with Mr. Hung)
Real China | Immersion Trips by Insiders
1450 Lodge Ln. | Boulder, CO 80303 | USA
Hung Phan Ngoc ( Direct Guide-very knowledgeable & personable)
Expert Tour Guide of Veteran Tours
cell phone: 0903 00 66 02