War on Terrorism

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bomb blast survivor shares experience

by Senior Master Sgt. Jill LaVoie
Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs

6/18/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- He saw the flash of light and felt the wind, but he didn't hear the blast. Still the truck bomb that destroyed the living quarters known as Khobar Towers and killed 19 Airmen on June 25, 1996, picked up Senior Airmen Lee Wright, threw him across the room and covered him in glass and metal debris.

Now a senior master sergeant, Wright wants share his experience and teach people what the blast has taught him.

"[I want people to know] wearing this uniform means sacrifice, not only for you, but your family," he said. "Cherish every moment because you don't know when it will be your last. Don't take any of your training for granted, and always remember to serve with a smile."

When the truck bomb exploded, Wright was eating dinner and watching TV. Then suddenly, everything became chaotic, but it was an "organized" chaos.

"All that training you get kicks in. All that stuff you hate to do, all the monotonous stuff, like self-aid buddy care, kicked in.

"We didn't have to grab any guides, everyone just knew what to do. Even though we still didn't know what had happened, we started taking care of our buddies. It becomes automatic in the moment you need it because you've done it so many times. It's instinctive."

Annual training isn't the only thing that became automatic in the aftermath of the blast.

"People were encouraging one another, praying for one another. Everything under the resiliency umbrella was happening before it was an Air Force program," he said. "We cared for one another. It helped me grow. It helped me help others. I was able to help someone else who I didn't' even know."

Not long after experiencing the importance of Wingmen, someone to help him through, Wright saw a news report on the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. The report interviewed a sailor and something inside him said "reach out."

With the help of his first sergeant, Wright was able to get a letter to the sailor.

"My words in the letter were just encouraging her. I shared my story, and some of the things that helped me get through it. I let her know if she needed it, I was here," Wright said. "In that moment, because of what I'd experienced, I was there to help her get through what she was going through."

Helping each other is important for Wright because all Airmen, all military members, are in this together.

"I guess I consider myself an old timer, and I'm trying to remind people of why we wear the uniform," he said.

"There are still people out there who do not like us as Americans, but we have a job to do. Unfortunately, sometimes the job we do costs lives. But, if we hold fast to our core values, it makes the journey a lot better.

"Everyone serves for a different reason - whatever the reason - we are all on the same team."

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