Jackie Bong Wright

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Vietnamese Died as Hero in Iraq

By Jackie Bong-Wright

Purple Heart Award

On behalf of the President of the U.S. of America, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, U.S. Marines Corps Commandant, presented, at the Arlington National Cemetery, the Purple Heart to Cpl Binh Le, 20, for wounds received in action on December 3 in Iraq. Hundreds of family, friends, officials, and unknown admirers came to pay respect to the young graduate from Edison High School in Springfield, Virginia.
Capt Chris Curtain, Commanding officer of Sierra Battery, choked up and reported that Cpl Binh Le and Cpl Wyatt responded instantly by gunning down a suicide bomber, driving a vehicle laden with explosives, who tried to attack their compound. Both helped prevent more casualties from occurring by putting themselves in danger and protect their brother Marines.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz came to pay his respect and Congressman Jim Moran, (D-VA) shared his condolences with Binh’s family. The two officials helped rush entry visas from Vietnam for his biological parents, Lien, a former army officer in the Republic of Vietnam, and Hoang, his mother, to attend their son’s memorial services. Full honors and services were proudly rendered to this young serviceman.
Binh came to the U.S. at 6, adopted by his aunt, Thanh Le and her husband, Hau Luu. He also spent his week-ends and vacation time with another aunt, Thu Cuc and her husband Luong La, who served as his foster parents. At 14, Binh volunteered in his 9th grade to undertake the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program until he graduated four years later, at the same time he graduated from high school. Joel Alvereya, a classmate who took the same course with him said that last year, Binh was selected by his superiors and over 80 peers to be a top cadet in charge of eight in his team. It was a tough call to be committed in a leadership role for that young and frail refugee who put his utmost effort into learning a new language and new skills.
Joel said that ROTC curriculum consists of current events, physical training, uniform inspection, leadership training, citizenship, drill instruction, weapons safety, and life-living skills such as money management, finance management, fitness, history and traditions of the U.S. Marines Corps. The drill teams also compete among other teams in the same school or with other schools. He was remembered by Tim Bradshaw, ROTC’s commander and friend.
Binh also found time to belong to a football team and a band at church. He not only played the drums, the guitar and keyboard, but also sang and composed songs. Josh, a band colleague, said that Binh was lively, creative, and outstanding; he served as a role model for younger folks. While in Iraq, he wrote lyrics, which his band’s friends set to music and sung at the memorial, including these verses: “I always stop and figured. What can I do to help? I think you think that, The World is a pretty place.”. He was remembered by Mr. G, his music teacher, who lauded him, “He gave his ultimate self to his country.”

In 2002, at 18, Binh enlisted in the Marines Corps and went on recruit training at Parris Island. Upon graduation, he moved on to Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry, Camp Geiger in North Carolina, and eventually to Fort Sill for field artillery Cannoneer’s School. Afterwards, he was assigned to Camp Lejeune, where he was attached to 5th battalion, 10th Marines. He was meritoriously promoted to Corporal in September 2004. Shortly after, he was sent to deploy to Iraq with Battery S. He was proud to have received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, and a letter of appreciation.
He was also remembered by Pastor Hull and his son Joe at Lorton’s Gunston Bible Church, who became his family away from home. Binh said, at a church gathering, when he helped secure a bridge south of Bagdad during the initial invasion of the ountry in 2003, “The Iraqi people were so glad we were there. It just about put me in tears.”