Col. Darron Wright seemed to know everyone in the headquarters of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 7th Infantry Division. He put in long hours and had a knack for bringing out the best in the soldiers who served alongside him.
They can’t talk about the tall, broad-shouldered officer without mentioning his upbringing in the Lone Star State.
“They say things are bigger in Texas. They are. Darron was bigger both in size and in heart,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the division’s commander.
Wright’s outsize personality and dedication made his September death in a paratrooper training accident hurt all the more for the troops who knew him during his 25-year Army career.
A few dozen of them gathered Friday with Wright’s family for a ceremony at the division headquarters dedicating a conference room in his memory. The gesture conveyed to his widow, his first wife and his children that Wright was “more than just a soldier” to his fellow troops.
The honor “came from love. Yes, it came from duty, but it came from love,” said his first wife, Angela Wright-Geppert of Woodinville.
Wright “lived his life for God, country and family. God took him home, and his country has honored him so nicely,” she said.
Wright was 45 when he died Sept. 23 at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he was preparing for a deployment with its XVIII Airborne Corps. His long Army career took him to Iraq three times, as well as to stations in South Korea, Texas, Colorado, and a couple of stints at Fort Bragg.
He left a mark at Lewis-McChord from 2009-13 as deputy commander of one of the base’s Stryker brigades, as an officer at I Corps and as the first chief of operations for the recently reactivated 7th Infantry Division.
In 2012, Wright published a memoir called “Iraq Full Circle” describing his experiences on his combat tours there. The last took place with Lewis-McChord’s 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Wright helped organize what became known as the war’s “last combat patrol,” taking the Stryker brigade out of Baghdad in August 2010 as the American military formally shifted its emphasis from fighting insurgents to training the Iraqi military.
Maj. Gerald New was on Wright’s staff at the time. A couple of years later, Wright picked New to become the division’s chief of training.
Wright “was a true mentor-leader,” New said Friday, describing the officer as someone who helped others excel.
Wright is survived by his wife, Wendy, and their son, Kyle, as well as by Wright-Geppert and their children, Dillon and Chloe.
Wendy Wright said it’s fitting that her husband would be remembered at Lewis-McChord for his contributions to the division.
“As a family, we’re just completely humbled that the division would do a dedication like this,” she said. “Darron put in long hours and we all made sacrifices so he could do his job. To have that acknowledged is vindicating that he did all he could.”
Several soldiers who attended the ceremony shared memories with the officer’s family, some dating back to his early days in uniform.
Lanza took photos of Wright’s children with a plaque honoring their father. The general’s voice wavered in his remarks as he described his friend.
“The way Darron lived his life made a difference,” Lanza said. “Everyone in here who knew Darron is a better person because of him.”Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com