Corporal Joe Wrightsman, United States Marine

The Department of Defense announced the death of a Marine who was supporting
Operation Enduring Freedom. Cpl. Joe L. Wrightsman, 23, of Jonesboro, La., died July 18 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

A Marine carry team lifts a transfer case containing the remains of Cpl. Joe L. Wrightsman Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

While all of the above is true it doesn’t sit well with me to merely leave you with that sanitized version of events. As someone who knew Cpl Wrightsman’s character, I will do my best to paint for you, the citizens he served, a better picture of an American fighting man.
To the best of my knowledge, this is what happened:

On July 18, Cpl Wrightsman was part of a patrol crossing the Helmand river when an ANP (Afghan National Police) was swept away in the river behind him. Without hesitation, Cpl Wrightsman, in full personal protective gear, dove into the water in an effort to rescue the ANP. He was last seen about 50 ft downstream when he surfaced briefly. Four other Marines had dropped their gear and went in after him but were unable to find anything. From what I understand the entire Marine Expeditionary Force threw its efforts into recovering Cpl Wrightsman. Every type of asset, aircraft, equipment, and personnel were employed. Taliban forces were beginning to move in from the north in an effort to capture Cpl Wrightsman’s body before the Marines. They were thwarted after two days when both bodies were recovered by the Americans.

In the picture below you can see then Lance Corporal Wrightsman standing directly behind me serving as guidon bearer for Kilo Company 3/3 when we were getting ready to leave Fallujah and head home in 2008.

Then Lance Corporal Wrightsman as my guidon bearer in Iraq 2008.

I remember Wrightsman had a tattoo of the Green Lantern symbol. Many young men have joined the Corps with dreams of doing exploits. No doubt Wrightsman was no different, hoping to emulate the valor of his childhood heroes.

Graduating from Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course, Al Asad, Iraq 2009.
Hamming it up with the Company 1stSgt during the Marine Corps Birthday November 2007.

Upon hearing what happened on July 18 nearly every one of us that knew him immediately thought: “But Wrightsman can’t swim!” Fortunately, America still breeds men with a bias for action who don’t dwell on what they can’t do. I imagine Cpl Wrightsman thought to himself: “I can’t let this guy down!” Then he heedlessly went after a man who wasn’t a fellow Marine or even an American.

One of my last acts as Kilo Company 1stSgt was to submit Wrightsman for meritorious promotion to Corporal. At the time of his death his current 1stSgt had submitted him for meritorious Sergeant. It was recently remarked to me that all Cpl Wrightsman cared about was being a Marine and taking care of his squad. Yeah, that’s just about my breed of Marine I’d say.

” And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Semper Fidelis,
America’s 1stSgt

/ / / /



    A moment of silence. He never thought of what he can’t do.
    He did what he thought had to be done.
    There’s nothing I can say to help you or anybody else feel better about this loss, but he was a hero.


  2. A1S

    My throat is tight and my eyes are leaking salt water as I read of your loss and about Corporal Wrightsman.

    I know in your heart & mind there will always be a place for Corporal Wrightsman.

    My prayers will include Corporal Wrightsman, who will be saluting St. Peter and asking for his duty station. And, for his family as they try to deal with such a devastating loss.

    Miss Em

  3. 1st Sgt cpl wroghtsman was a example of a marine who loved his job and men,he taught me so much from 06 to 2010. He served as my squad leader in the Iraq,09 deployment, he once told me he was going to retire or die in combat,that was just one example of his character, he truly loved his job. To this day is one of the best marines ive had the pleasure to work with.God bless Cpl Joe Wrightsman he will be greatly missed.


  4. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of a fellow 3/3 Kilo brother. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family squad and Kilo. Thank you for everything you are doing and have done Kilo. Keep kicking ass.

    Semper FI
    Cpl Mazur
    3/3 Kilo 02-06

  5. To all of 3/3, especially those who jumped in the water or were with his squad-my thoughts and prayers are with you all.
    The gates of heaven opened lines with Joe’s Brothers awaiting him with opened arms. This story should show America just how our Marines will risk their very own lives for those they were sent to protect.
    To Cpl. Wrightsman’s family and friends I send my deepest condolences. I pray your surrounded by family and friends. I never met Joe- but he is one of my sons. I was contacted by one of his former room mates from 2007 and I am trying all in my power to help Eric be there for you Cpl. Wrightsman.
    RIP Marine
    We will NEVER forget you or your bravery!
    Semper Fi
    God Bless all our Marines, Sailors and ” Special Angels”

  6. Joe Wrightsman was a childhood friend of mine, and it doesn’t surprise me how many people he touched in his short life. He was always helping other people, he never hated anyone he came across, everyone liked him. He wasn’t fake, who you saw was who Joe was.

    He is a true American hero, and I will always remember him as that.

  7. Cpl Wrightsman volunteered for this deployment. After returning from Iraq in 2009, 3/3 saw a significant turnover in personnel, resulting in a large percentage of boot Marines (including my son in Co. K). Cpl Wrightsman volunteered to remain with Kilo to lend some experience to those Marines.
    What a Marine! Speaking as a ‘nasty civilian’, the Corps’ ability to attract and retain the quantities of this caliber of man is astounding. I am humbled and proud that my son will carry Cpl Wrightsman’s memory with him, and use that memory as an inspiration.

  8. R.I.P. “Jay” what a great guy. ill never forget him. all of my husbands guys are mourning over there. they all loved and respected him. he was always the life of the parties 🙂 they actually meritoriously promoted him to Sgt.

  9. Ah, what a valiant young man. I’m sorry to hear of his passing. Grateful that man like him exist, and also that you knew him and could share a bit about him.
    Do let us know if his family needs anything.

  10. You, his family, and your fellow Marines have my deepest condolences for the loss of Corporal Wrightsman. From your words, he was a true hero in every sense of the word, and a man of honor. I will keep his family in my prayers.

  11. 1st SGT,

    Me and some of the older guys are keeping in touch with his family for his funeral. It kinda hit us hard, especially me and Newton. He was a great marine. But you breed the best and I’m proud to have been part of the legacy. Semper Fi Wrightwman, you are never forgotten.

    Doc Ramos

  12. Although Joe is my little cousin, I have not seen him in years. It’s wonderful to hear that he has had such an impact on the lives of others. Please continue to pray for his family and especially his son.

  13. Mike,

    I’ve tried for hours to think of something worthy to say about CPL Wrightsman and just can’t.

    Thank you for letting us know more about this man – a man I’d have been honored to know and who, without a doubt, would have enriched my life.

    My deepest sympathies to his family – ALL of you. Our nation is blessed because of men like him.

  14. Thank You 1st Sgt, for letting us know a little bit more about this Marine. He is a true American Hero and the world is a better place for having known him and a poorer place for having lost him.
    R.I.P. Corporal Wrightsman
    Thank You for Your Service.

  15. Thank You 1st Sgt, for letting us know a little bit more about this Marine. He is a true American Hero and the world is a better place for having known him and a poorer place for having lost him.
    R.I.P. Corporal Wrightsman
    Thank You for Your Service.

  16. God grant that this nation continues to produce, and honor, such men.

    The few, the proud is way more than a TV tag-line.

    Most remarkable to me is not just that this exceptional individual reacted in a way that presents such an outstanding example, but that this singular instance is repeated so many times, in so many circumstances, by so many of his brother Marines. Slags like me sit on our collective duffs and whine about minor inconvenience, while we are protected, defended, and put to shame by the shining spirits of our betters. Sergeant Wrightsman (I’ll bet my bootlaces the bump up is authorized already), you show us all what it’s really about. Top, your eloquence illustrates the real best and brightest we should all hold in respect, thank, and remember.

  17. Thank you for sharing your memories. I have linked to it as well at
    Corporal Joe Wrightsman, his friends, and his family are in my prayers. May they all find peace.

  18. great post top, it demonstrates how great the Marines are and how much you care for your own, that makes you a good 1st Sgt.

    My memory is fading but I believe I read that Corporal Wrightsman was highly decorated for his action.

  19. 1st Sgt, first of all let me say that your the best 1st Sgt ive ever had the pleasure to know and be trained by. Thanks for bein with Americas Battalion.

    RIP Sgt Wrightsman, your a hero to everyone and by far the most dedicated marine to step foot in. Thannks for training us all and making us always laugh ill see you on the other side.

  20. I wanted to say something since I read your post, but I could not come up with words worthy enough…until now.
    Thank you…your personal words beat the hell out of “died supporting combat operations in …” This young man’s conduct as a marine and his act of courage, bravery and self-sacrifice, jumping into a raging river to try and save someone else’s life, touched me on a level such that it begs me ask the question: Would I do the same? The loss of his life should not be mourned by a few, or many, it should be mourned by all.

  21. I myself also knew Corporal Joe Wrightsman. He wasmy neighbor and also went to school with me. I miss him dearly.When I saw this I was almost in tears. He will be missed.

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