Published 9:57 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Larry Wright, son of Ruth Francis (Merricks) Wright and Horace J. Wright was born in Danville, Virgina. He graduated from Bladensburg High School in Maryland where he served as class president. He was also an accomplished football player and baseball player. He attended college at the University of Maryland where he was a USAF ROTC student. He had a love for flying and was determined to join the USAF as a pilot.
Larry received a BA degree in Political Geography from the University of Maryland in 1960 and a Master of Arts degree in Urban Sociology (cum laud) from the University of Colorado in 1972. He graduated from the National War College in 1977. He also was a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College and Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
His flight training was completed at Craig AFB, Alabama in 1962 and was assigned to Travis AFB. He served initially as a C-133 pilot and instructor, and then as a maintenance test flight officer.
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He met TWA airline hostess, Gretchen Koehler in 1965 and began what many believe to be the greatest love story ever. They married less than a year later. He became chief of aircrew standardization, flying C-7A Caribous at Cam Rand Bay Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. He was inducted into the Georgia Veterans Hall of Fame for Valor for flying resupply missions in 1969 when two Special Forces Camps came under heavy attack and were nearly overrun during severe thunderstorms, enemy ground fire and heavy black out conditions. He was also awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
When he returned to the United States, after several tours in Southeast Asia, he joined the staff at the US Air force Academy as a squadron air officer. He went on to serve as a C-141 pilot and a flight commander, quality control officer and Avionics Maintenance Squadron commander. He was assigned to the 437th Military Airlift Wing at Charlston AFB. After attending the National War College, he became an action officer in the Logistics Planning and Review Branch for Strategic Mobility, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington D.C.
After his tour of duty at the Pentagon, General Wright took command of the 89th Military Airlift Wing at Andrews AFB. This unit provides airlift for the President of the United States as well as other high-level government officials and foreign dignitaries, including President and Mrs. Carter, President Reagan, and President Bush. He flew Ronald Reagan to his inauguration. Next, he was assigned as commander of the 438th Military Airlift Wing at McGuire AFB. He initiated an extensive history and heritage program to preserve the legacy of our airlift pioneers. In February 1983 he became deputy chief of staff for logistics at Military Airlift Command headquarters at Scott AFB. Next, he served as the Vice-Commander of the 22nd Air Force at Travis AFB and was promoted to brigadier general.
General Wright’s final assignment before retiring in 1987 was as the Commander of the 1605th Airlift Wing of the US Forces in Portugal, Azores. After he retired, he taught U.S. History and Political Science for 10 years at Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida and Florida Community College of Jacksonville. He was elected and served two terms as chairman of the St. John’s County Republican Party.
The little boy born in Danville, Virgina who dreamed of flying ended up as a command pilot with 7,400 flying hours. He had flown T-29s, T-33s, T-34s, T-37s, C-133s, C7As, C-9s, T-39s, C-118s, C-131s, and C-141s. His military decorations and awards include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service medal, Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Presidential Unit Citation Emblem, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon with three oak leaf clusters, Combat Readiness medal, national Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with 11 service stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Larry and Gretchen enjoyed many adventures traveling all over the world. They enjoyed painting together and in earlier years, creating stained glass pieces. He enjoyed sailing and old cars. Larry was blessed with a long life that left us all with memories from his stories about his childhood, such as when his grandfather made him his first baseball with a rock and a tobacco string a then carved him a bat. We will always have the stories of the real-life characters he worked with in the Air Force and all their hijinks. He was often the life of the party and had great jokes.
Left with wonderful memories are his wife of 58 years, Gretchen, Daughters; Pamela Guffey (David) of Woodbridge, Virginia, Teri Lee (Larry) of Lee Summit, Missouri, Heather White (Tom) of Bainbridge, Georgia, and son, John Wright of Raleigh, North Carolina. Also, he leaves his much-loved grandchildren; Ashleigh Griffin (Douglas)(Douglas, Johnny, Isaac) of Bainbridge, Georgia, Matt Guffey (Selena) of Sacramento, California, Luke Guffey (Trishey and Trudy) of Raleigh, North Carolina, Kristen Stone (Angelina Bautista and Isabella Bautista) of Bainbridge, Georgia and Daniel Stone (Justin, Micah, Korrine and Beau Jameson) of Copperas Cove, Texas. Larry had many great grandchildren. He also leaves his dog, Barney.
A celebration of life will be held at a future date. The family requests no flowers. If you feel so inclined, Larry was a supporter of Tunnels to Towers and St. Jude’s Hospital.