Honoring a Student; Honoring them all

James Wright grew up in the small mining town of Galena, Ill. Galena was once known for its prosperous lead mines and still had a vigorous zinc-mining industry after World War II. Wright, the son of a WWII veteran, was more interested in joining the Marines than going to work in the mines.  He and four classmates enlisted in the Marine Corps a few weeks after graduating from high school.

James Wright, Dartmouth College’s 16th president.

James Wright, Dartmouth College’s 16th president.

After serving for four years, Wright began attending Wisconsin State University-Platteville to pursue a degree in history.  He ultimately received a Ph. D and joined the Dartmouth College faculty as a professor.  He served as President of Dartmouth from 1998 to 2009 and is currently teaching a seminar there on “America’s Wars.”  While in school, Wright sometimes had to work in the Galena mines.  In the mines he worked for WWII Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Clarence Lyden.

A few years later Wright worked in Galena as a student teacher.  Clarence Lyden’s son, Michael, was a student in his English class.

“Michael was an energetic, pleasant, hard working young man,” Wright said.

Michael Lyden was drafted into the Army after high school graduation. On May 15, 1969, during Operation Apache Snow, Sgt. Lyden was killed. He was serving the 101st Airborne in attempts to achieve an objective known as “Hamburger Hill.”

“Mike may have gone back to work at the Kraft Foods plant in Galena – he did not want to follow his dad into the mines. . . whatever he did, he would have done well,” Wright said, at the 2009 Veterans Day ceremony at The Wall.

In memory of Sgt. Michael Lyden, James Wright made a submission to the Faces Never Forgotten program.  The program attempts to locate photographs of each of the 58,282 service members honored on The Wall as well as raise money to fund the construction of the Education Center at The Wall. Wright worked with the Lyden family to locate photos.  In addition to providing several high quality pictures of Lyden, Wright also made a generous endowment.

Wright's book, Those Who Have Borne the Battle:  A History of America’s Wars and Those Who Fought Them.

Wright’s book, Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America’s Wars and Those Who Fought Them.

The Education Center at The Wall will be a place on our National Mall where our military heroes’ stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.  It is a multi-million dollar, state-of- the-art visitor’s center and learning facility to be built between the Vietnam Veterans and Lincoln Memorials. Visitors will better understand the profound impact the Vietnam War had on their friends and family members, their hometowns and the nation. The Center will feature the faces and stories of the 58,282 men and women on The Wall, honoring those who fell in Vietnam, those who fought and returned, as well as the friends and families of all who served.

“Casualties of war cry out to be known – as persons, not as abstractions called casualties nor as numbers entered into the books, and not only as names chiseled into marble or granite.  After all of us who knew them are gone, the names on this Wall will endure,” Wright said.  His recent book, Those Who Have Borne the Battle:  A History of America’s Wars and Those Who Fought Them, described by Military Times as “eloquent and evocative,” emphasizes the human side of war.

Wright sees the construction of the Education Center as essential to providing this enduring human face of those who served and sacrificed.

“We need to ensure that here, in this place of memory, lives as well as names are recorded.  Lives with smiling human faces, remarkable accomplishments, engaging personalities, and with dreams to pursue.  We do this for them, for history, and for those in the future who will send the young to war.”