A cold wind swept across Green Acres Cemetery in Columbus Tuesday afternoon as workers carefully removed the dirt from the grave of Ouida Wright. She died on March 9, 1970, six years to the day after her husband, Specialist 5 Wyley Wright, Junior, died.
Wyley was a helicopter crew chief in the Army. He was an honor guard for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1964 in Vietnam. Wright died on March 9 of that year in a helicopter crash.
He was brought back to the U.S. and buried in a segregated cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida. Upon visiting his grave site several years ago, the family knew something had to be done.
His oldest daughter, Jackie, said, "When we found out the condition of the cemetery, my brothers and my sister and I decided that we had to move my father from the cemetery and actually move him to a place that was honorable."
Monday their father's body was exhumed in Jacksonville and is being transported to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia for burial next week.
Jackie was given one of her father's dog tags which he still had on him. As she held it in her hands, Jackie said, "For me to look on it and see his name, to see his serial number, to see his blood type, and to see that his religion was Methodist, it just affirmed our history."
One day later the family gathered at Green Acres Cemetery in Columbus where their mother is buried. Ouida Wright died of pancreatic cancer 44 years ago. As her mother's body was being disinterred, Jackie said it was only fitting that her mother find her final resting place beside her husband at Arlington. "There was obviously a strong love connection between them and we just want to honor that."
Jackie even has the last anniversary card her dad sent to her mother less than two months before he died. "Their anniversary was January 17 and he sent her a card and on it he says: To Ouida, the love of my life."
Jackie says she hopes this journey her family is taking will be an inspiration to others. "It's not only for my family. This represents all of the families that have given...the 58,000 families that have lost loved ones in the Vietnam War. Hopefully they'll be inspired by our story not to forget and to honor the loved one as much as possible."
On Monday, March 10, the Wright family will gather at Arlington National Cemetery to celebrate the lives of their parents. Then they will watch as the two will be buried side by side...as it should be.