MONTEGO BAY, St James — Technical Sergeant Terence G Wright Sr was already a hero-soldier when he migrated from Jamaica and joined the United States Air Force where he continued to excel in a 26-year career in which he saw action in the first Gulf War.
Caught up in the europhia of the Jamaica 50th Anniversary of Independence and London Olympic stardom, Wright came home earlier this month to mark his 60th birthday and his retirement from the US military, bringing with him a large contingent of close family and friends.
The Independence period was special for him because he was, at age 10, the youngest member of the Boy Scouts in Jamaica to retire the British flag in 1962 and raise the Jamaican flag at the former Casa Montego Hotel in this northcoast tourist resort city.
The retirement ceremony at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort featured the presentation of the Jamaican and American flags, reading of the honoree's military history and the lusty singing of the national anthems of both countries by the over 30 family members and friends, led by his wife Viviene Wright, children and siblings who shared in the joyful festivities. Master of Ceremonies was Josh Allen, brother-in-law of Sergeant Wright. Prayers were offered by his father, Percival E Rowe, JP.
"This moment, indeed, has taken my breath away. This moment will always be embedded in my heart," Wright said, his voice choking with emotion.
Wright, a native of Westmoreland, started his outstanding military career in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), rising to the rank of assistant engineer in the Coast Guard where he was on special assignment with the US Embassy, responsible for diplomatic care protection on land, sea and air.
During these missions, he famously saved the lives of a family of four in August 1979. The Hunt family was being transported from a boat in Discovery Bay, St Ann to a Boston whaler on its way to Goat Island when the boat shifted and capsized, plunging the family members into the sea. Without hesitation, Sergeant Wright jumped more than 30 feet into the water, in full uniform and shoes, and made a heroic rescue of the four persons, none of whom could swim.
His accolades include an award for Outstanding Honour for being the seaport commander on a mission to capture one of the most wanted men in Jamaica in 1978 during a time of intense political violence. He was also in charge of aircraft protection in the Jamaica Air Wing at the JDF.
At the US Air Force in which he enlisted in 1986, he served in five conflicts and two wars, including the 1991 Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm which ousted Iraq's Saddam Hussein from occupied Kuwait. His other major missions included the US invasion of Panama, for which he received several medals such as the Air Force Achievement Medal for outstanding accomplishment in April 1989. Wright said that among the most notable decorations for him was his award for being the first African-American in the history of the US Air Force to receive Sergeant of the Quarter in performance, "which meant I had my own parking spot", he joked.
Distinguishing himself in leadership, he was the oldest member in his training class in Texas and Illinois to complete the Air Force flight computer technical training in 1987 with high honours. His most prestigious award is the Meritorious Service Medal for exceptional service.
Reflecting on his life's achievements, Wright told the Jamaica Observer: "The honour dearest to my heart, is my participation in the recovery and saving of lives in my parish of birth, Westmoreland, in a tropical depression in 1979."
At that time, he was assigned chief scout for all security forces involved, including British and US troops.
The festivities climaxed the following day at the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Hotel where the group stayed, indulging in a poolside party and dining at Uncle Tony's Steakhouse Restaurant.