From fights, rage to discipline, pride - New Marine finds escape from chaos to become changed man
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification Number: 2003722164522
Story by Lance Cpl. Jess Levens

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(July 18, 2003) -- He is an angry, young man - his life filled with torment and loss. He acts on his feelings and finds himself in a world where he is not welcome and his actions are frowned upon. He hits rock bottom with nowhere to turn except down a one-way road to chaos, he must find an escape.

This is the story of PFC Nicolas J. Wright, Platoon 1091, Company D, a life full of woe and disappointment turned into a miraculous transformation of will, courage, and knowing when enough is enough.

Wright was born in the small town of Meza, Ariz., where he was the youngest of four children. His family moved to several quaint California cities, before his life turned upside down.

"When I was 11, my mother died of cancer," said Wright. "I came home, and found her dead, lying in bed looking to the ceiling."

He became very sad, naturally, and began to act out aggressively.

Wright said this tragedy was also extremely hard on his father, a detective, but he and his siblings did all they could to comfort him.

What was left of his shattered family moved to Chico, Calif., where Wright began high school.

"My high school was rough," said Wright. "There were fights every day and I was involved in a lot of them."

As a freshman, Wright was involved in a fight and was stabbed in the rib cage with a pitchfork.

"Luckily, it wasn't a very deep wound," said Wright. "I just kept on fighting and patched it up when I got home."

Wright continued on his downward spiral of anger and violence when more tragedy hit. His close friend, James, was murdered by gang members.

This sent him for a loop as he began to reevaluate himself. In all, five of Wright's friends were killed in high school.

Through the turmoil, however, this 20-year-old found his muse. He began to date a young girl named Sherry.

"Sherry was always a good girl," said Wright. "She began to help me get my life back in order."

Despite his disturbing behavior at school and his mediocre grades, Sherry saw something in him, according to Wright. She began to help him study every night, and she helped him increase his grades quite a bit.

Even with the extra work and studying, Wright did not graduate high school, but this did not discourage him.

"I immediately continued my education," said Wright. "I was determined to earn my diploma."

Through evening classes, Wright did just that. He also married Sherry, the love of his life and his saving grace. They had a daughter.

With a new family to look after and provide for, Wright decided he wanted a good life for them. He said he wanted to leave his bad influences behind and start fresh.

"After I got my diploma, I joined the Marines," he said.

Wright arrived at recruit training with the desire to change, but he lacked the discipline. He said he was resentful of his drill instructors and hated being told what to do.

"I had a real problem with authority," he said. "I didn't like where I was, and I took it out on others."

Wright said his attitude changed for the better about halfway through training.

"My senior drill instructor talked to the platoon about heart and will power and the desire to improve," said Wright. "It really touched me and changed my whole outlook on things."

At that point, Wright turned over a new leaf. He began to listen to orders and act unselfishly.

"When Wright got here, he was completely lost," said Staff Sgt. Earl Budd, senior drill instructor, Platoon 1091, Co. D. "Slowly but surely, he transformed. He now does things to help the team, not himself. He will be a fine Marine."

Wright's change was so drastic that he was chosen as the most improved recruit for his platoon.

"At the beginning, Wright was out of control," said Pvt. Duncan McClain, Platoon 1091, Co. D. "He started off wild and selfish, but he learned discipline and respect. He made a complete 180."

The 5-foot-8-inch Marine attributes much of his change to his fellow platoon members, and the thought of walking across the parade deck to kiss his wife and daughter as a changed man - as a U.S. Marine.

"I can't wait to hold my daughter," said Wright with a glimmer in his hazel eyes. "She will know her daddy is doing something special, something to be proud of."

PFC Nicolas J. Wright, Platoon 1091, Company D, holds a picture of his wife and daughter, and himself as a Marine. He now readies himself to walk off the parade deck as a changed man.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jess Levens

The Drifter