- Your News
By ANDREA AGARDY
The nation will take a collective pause on Monday to honor the thousands of American servicemen and women who have given their lives in service to their country. While the holiday is a meaningful observance for all Americans, the day has a deeply personal significance for Wartrace native George W. Wright and his family.
George’s older brother, Virgil Alexander Wright III, was one of the 99 crewmen aboard the USS Scorpion, a nuclear powered submarine that sank in the mid-Atlantic on May 22, 1968. Virgil was 23 years old at the time of the submarine’s mysterious disappearance.
The families of the crewmen were notified by the Navy on May 27, 1968 that the Scorpion, which was scheduled to return to port in Norfolk, Va., was overdue. The Navy officially declared the sub lost at sea on June 5, 1968, and a memorial service was held in Norfolk the following day.
George was serving with the Army in Vietnam at the time his brother’s submarine went missing, and was given leave to attend the memorial service with his family.
“Upon entering the chapel, I scanned the room and found my family halfway down the right side,” he recalled. “My family had not seen me since October of 1967. As I approached the pew, mother looked up to see me. Emotions were rampant as she began to cry.”
Roughly a week after the memorial service for the crew of the Scorpion was held, George’s parents, Pauline and Virgil Wright, took him to the Nashville airport, where he began his journey to return to Vietnam.
“My most memorable thing that day was the fact that my mother was wearing dark sunglasses to cover her eyes,” he said. “To this day, mother still wears dark sunglasses.”
No bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, which is now located approximately 400 miles southeast of the Azores Islands. The precise cause of the loss has not been determined, although Navy investigators have ruled out sabotage and enemy action. Nonetheless there are many people, George included, who believe the submarine was sunk by the Soviets.
According to George, the Navy has scheduled another exploratory dive to the sandy Atlantic seabed this summer where the Scorpion wreckage still sits in another attempt to determine exactly what happened.
Although he said he is very proud of his brother’s service, the pain of the loss, the lack of a satisfactory answer to explain exactly what happened to Virgil and the other 98 men aboard the Scorpion as well as the memories of the friends he lost in Vietnam makes Memorial Day a very emotional holiday for George.
“This is really personal for me,” he said. “My younger siblings didn’t even know my brother.”
Memorial Day ceremonies
Several area communities will hold Memorial Day services this weekend to give the public an opportunity to honor the sacrifices made by Virgil Alexander Wright III and the thousands of other military personnel who have died in service to the nation.
In Manchester, the annual Memorial Day ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on the town square. Scheduled speakers include State Representative Judd Matheny, as well as officials representing Coffee County, City of Manchester, AEDC, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Lynchburg will also host a ceremony on Monday morning, organized by the American Legion. The event in Lynchburg will be held at the flagpole in the town square starting at 11 a.m.