Surrounded by family and dying of bone cancer, 96-year-old Velva Spoon was presented five war medals and a gold star, given in memory and honor of her baby brother E-5 Sgt. William Henry Wright Jr. who went Missing in Action in 1953 during the Korean War.
Retired Lt. Col. Steve Gray, standing in for U.S. Sen. John Boozman, presented a letter and the medals, including a Purple Heart medal, to Spoon at her Mercy Hospital Joplin bedside.
“Thank you,” said Spoon, who had difficulty speaking but was very thankful for closure. “This means a lot.”
Spoon’s brother Sgt. Wright was born in 1927 in Neosho, Mo., and worked on the family farm until he joined the Army in 1948. In the 27th Infantry Regiment, his unit breached the 38th parallel and pushed the North Koreans to the Yalu River. Without warning, tens of thousands of Communist Chinese attacked the soldiers stationed there. It is believed that Sgt. Wright went missing during this fierce battle and was presumed dead at the hands of the enemy.
Spoon’s younger brother, Loren Wright, was shipped to Korea on the same day that Sgt. Wright went MIA. Unbeknownst to the family at that time, they would never know the true fate of their brother, William, whose remains would never return home.
The Wright family, members of the Wyandotte Nation, are donating Sgt. Wright’s medals to the Wyandotte Nation Museum at the annual powwow in September, in honor of their brothers memory.
“Today we pause, reflect, honor and pay tribute for his sacrifice by bestowing these symbols of a grateful nation,” said Lt. Col. Gray as he read Sen. Boozman’s letter to Spoon. “He was truly a member of the greatest generation.”