I was privileged to meet a few sages during my time in the Army. One of them
was CWO3 Richard "Pappy" Wright.
As I remember, Pappy had retired as a Colonel from the Air Force with his last
assignment being in charge of Air-Sea Rescue from CONUS to the Azores Islands.
He went to work for United Technologies as a technical writer. After a period
at United Technologies, Pappy enlisted in the Army as a Sergeant and quickly became A CWO.
Armed with being a career serviceman, then a civilian, and then a serviceman again, Pappy
had a wealth of information and outlooks not often found in the service.
I remember during one of those ad hoc bitch sessions that often arise when you get one or
more servicemen together, the discussion on the advantage of the civilian world is that
you do not have to wear a uniform. Pappy popped up with a clarification that every
job has some kind of uniform. He said that at United Technologies, there was a uniform
code. Depending on your job title and which department you working in, indicated
whether you wore a suit, sport coat or only in shirt sleeves. If in shirtsleeves,
whether you wore a sport shirt or white shirt, short sleeve, long sleeve, long sleeve
folded once, twice, three times, or buttoned. Tie patterns and colors were also
part of the dress code.
Pappy indicated that this very complex dress code was very important at United Technologies.
By it, you could look at someone and know where he worked and his job title. The only
problem was that the dress code was not written. You were expected to follow it and
if you violated it, you eventually were given a chance to pursue a new career. Pappy
followed that in the Army, at least the dress code was well defined and written. You
always knew where you stood.
One of the important bits of wisdom from Pappy came as I finally was coerced by my fiancée to
stop playing war and to go home. Pappy asked my plans and I said I was going home,
get a job and get married. Pappy said to me that the job market at home (1968) was
terrible and that I was going home and going to college. I said I had not been in school
for five years and was not up to it. Pappy said that I was totally qualified for college.
He asked me what I did as a tech inspector and pointed out that I researched and wrote a lot,
the same things I would do in college.
Then he when on about the marrying thing. He said that I should be sure to wait three or four
years before having kids to be able to find out who I was married to. Then he said that after
that waiting period, having a child was the most important thing I could do. He said that no
job or any other circumstance would be more valuable than a child would.
Well I went home and the job market was horrible. I went to college and it was a snap.
Military discipline made school easy. So he was Right about that. Then I married and I
waited five years to have my child. I just took my daughter to Texas A&M for grad school
and I can tell you that she is truly the most valuable thing I have.
Pappy Wright was the Right man for me. Even with this passage of thirty years, it is possible
Pappy is still with us. I hope so that some time I can thank him for the guidance that he gave me.