By Amanda C. Davis
Martial arts kept the soldier’s mind and body sharp while serving in Iraq.
Before enlisting in the Army in 2004, Spc. 4 Raemond Wright wasn’t necessarily on the wrong path, he was on what he calls the “go nowhere path.”
With a dead-end job and no clear goals, the New Castle, Pa., man decided he needed a fresh start.
“Basically, I wanted to change things in my life and build a better foundation for the future,” he said.
Wright, who returned from Iraq in November, spoke to more than 30 students Monday during an after-school martial-arts program at West Boulevard Elementary in Boardman.
The class is offered by Master Park Martial Arts International, which has schools in Boardman and New Castle. Wright, who has trained with Master Moon S. Park for 12 years and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, is now using his experiences to teach students.
Fourth-grader Alexis Doland enjoyed Wright’s speech, saying she’s fascinated with her grandfather’s military books and has known for some time that she wants to enlist when she’s old enough.
The idea of serving her country is important to Alexis, who said another long-term goal is to work for the FBI. She is in Master Park’s after-school program and also trains at his Boardman facility where she has a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do.
She said the training helps her in school and sports and will serve her in her future career. “It just really helps me concentrate,” she added.
Wright, 25, teaches all levels of Tae Kwon Do twice a week for Master Park and continues his own training as well. He also is hoping to speak at more area schools about his war experience.
Wright was in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, serving one 12-month tour of duty near Kirkuk and another 15-month tour north of Tikrit.
During this time, he received the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Campaign Star Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon and Combat Infantryman Badge.
He had a few “close calls” during his tours, but Wright said he was fortunate to avoid physical injury even though snipers and roadside bombs were a “constant threat.”
His martial-arts training kept his mind sharp and his body physically fit during combat and down time, he said, explaining it’s also helped in everyday life.
“It gave me a good discipline background, and it gave me a lot of self-confidence and drive,” he said.
Wright, a 2001 Laurel High School graduate, will begin a two-year program in the fall at the North Fayette campus of Pittsburgh Technical Institute. He plans to study criminal law and criminal justice to become a state trooper.
He was considered active-duty with the Army for 41‚Ñ2 years, ending in February when he made a three-year commitment to the Pennsylvania National Guard. There is a possibility he will be deployed after two years.
Wright patiently answered students’ questions about his time in Iraq, including what he ate, what time he woke in the morning and whether or not there are “fishes” in Iraq.
Third-grader Justin Clark was impressed with Wright, saying he enjoyed hearing about the time Wright spent on the Tigris River. He added that the martial-arts program teaches him to protect himself and helps him stay out of trouble at home.
Wright spoke highly of Master Park’s class, noting that he donates his time to the after-school program at West Boulevard Elementary. He added that the class teaches valuable lessons in respect and discipline that he feels are desperately needed in today’s world.
“If we could get back to that in this country, I think it could solve a lot of our nation’s problems,” he said.