Despite having lived all over the world during his long Air Force career, you can still hear the Texas in Ben Wright’s voice. He grew up in Big Bend Country, as far west in West Texas as you can get. Now Ben and his wife live in Beaver, Pennsylvania, where it’s a little greener.
Ben was a pilot during the Vietnam War, and the Cold War, and the Gulf War. He retired in 1992 as a Lt. Colonel, having served during three remarkable historic eras—air lifting refugees out of Saigon, flying supplies into Communist strangled West Berlin, and coordinating air support for the liberation of Kuwait.
As a senior officer, rising to the position of deputy base commander, one of Ben’s primary duties was to inspire and motivate others to carry out their mission. “To get anything done in the military, you have to work together with people,” he asserts. “The work ethic in the military is phenomenal. It takes a desire to make things happen in the best interest of the organization and the people with whom you are working.”
As Reverend Ben Wright—an ordained Anglican—he often draws upon this same understanding of how to work with other people. “Even in the church other people’s lives depend on what you do.”
When Post Chaplain Joe Mavero called to invite us to interview veterans at VFW Post 128 in Rochester, PA, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to preserve more Beaver County stories. After Commander Tom Crawford and the Post’s executive board generously reserved a quiet space for us in the building, we set up a two-day recording event July 21-22, 2014. Over two days we captured the stories of three veterans representing Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.
VFW Post 128 sits on Rochester’s Virginia Avenue, high above the Ohio River valley. It is a spacious location, with reception hall and meeting rooms. In addition to being the home to the Rochester VFW Ladies Auxiliary, the Post hosts Chapter 862 of Vietnam Veterans of America, the largest VVA chapter in Pennsylvania and second in the nation.
“We’re thankful that Post 128’s leadership recognizes the importance of preserving the stories of their members,” said Kevin Farkas, director of Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh. “They understand the historical significance of what their members experienced and the importance of giving each veteran a chance to tell his or her story in their own words so that future generations of Americans will better understand and appreciate their service.”
In My Own Words
On July 21, 2014, Lt. Col. Ben Wright (USAF, Ret.) sat down with the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative and shared his story of military service–an incredible career spanning the Vietnam War, Cold War, and Iraq War. One of the greatest lessons learned from the military, Ben says, is the ability to work with others to get a job done. That and the importance of a strong work ethic. As a flight instructor, for example, Ben warns that poor job performance could kill someone, and so he did his best to train his students well. “I wasn’t interested in burying any mistakes.”