KILLEEN, Texas - Every Soldier that enlists serves his or her country in their own way. Some serve for a few years, others make a career out of the military. However, there are some unique cases when an individual will continue to give back to the military community long after their contract ends.
Retired Army Maj. James Wright, also known as Old Ranger, and his wife moved to Killeen after his retirement in 1992 to be closer to family. They began to look for ministry opportunities with one of the local chapels on Fort Hood. After attending several services at Chapel Next, the senior chaplain there asked Old Ranger to teach the single Soldiers Sunday school class.
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Jim Wright also known as Old Ranger runs with Soldiers during Army Physical Fitness Training on Fort Hood, Texas, August 20, 2014. Wright a retiree of more than 20 years dedicates his time to encouraging Soldiers on Fort Hood. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon K. Anderson)
He has such love and devotion for the military community that even 24 years after retirement he continues to serve. Whether it is a motivational morning run with the troops, a one-on one-conversation with Soldiers, or mentoring others, Old Ranger does what he can to encourage and motivate his military family through his ministry.
His time spent with soldiers in Sunday school led to being more involved in their daily military lives. During an evening event at Chapel Next, he met some Soldiers, asked what unit they were with and mentioned that he might come down to do physical training with them one morning. The next day he introduced himself to the Soldier's first sergeant and asked if he could do physical training with the unit, to which the first sergeant agreed.
“After that, other first sergeants saw me and wanted me to come over to their unit. I think now there are probably 18 first sergeants that want me to come to their units,” said Wright.
Old Ranger said this opened up even more doors and opportunities than he could have imagined. He originally intended to help and mentor specifically junior enlisted soldiers. However, he soon began receiving requests to come speak to and mentor noncommissioned officers as well.
These interactions with troops don't just stop at the basic meet and greet stage. When doing P.T. with units, he gets there before first formations to ensure the soldiers know he is there to talk to if they desire.
“Doing P.T. with the troops, I try and split it between 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and most of the units from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team because some of the sergeants major there want someone to hang out with troops and find out about things going on,” said Wright.
He continued, “Anyone can come talk to me. I'm not a chaplain. I'm not active duty; I have no requirements on post. So they willingly talk to me at breakfast, at first formation, just about anywhere.”
Old Ranger knows when and where to direct Soldiers who come to him for help as well as keeping their situation confidential.
“If it's a spiritual situation, then I go find the chaplain and work through them,” said Wright. “If it's a military situation, I usually take it to either the first sergeant or sergeant major because they can work it through the chain of command.”
Morning P.T. is not the only time that Old Ranger offers his services to troops. He said that he opens his house to troops in need as well. Whether it's a bible study session with his group from Chapel Next, soldiers just needing somewhere to hangout away from the barracks, or families needing a place to stay during a PCS his house is available.
Old Ranger said that the motivation and drive behind his passion for helping troops is based on his own military background and experience. The leaders who trained him showed such a dedication to taking care of their troops that it stuck with him.
“I took care of soldiers. That was one thing that Gen. Omar Bradley impressed upon me,” said Wright. “He was big on taking care of soldiers; train them hard but take care of them.”
He said one of his current goals is to continue serving and mentoring soldiers until the day he dies.
“I just wanted to motivate and encourage a few soldiers when I first started,” said Wright. “I didn't realize it was going to expand in to something more.”
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Folkerth
Provided through DVIDS
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