Renowned distance runner dies in Afghanistan attack
A soldier who was an accomplished athlete from the Vail Valley was killed in action in Afghanistan late Monday when the military vehicle in which he was riding hit a homemade land mine.Sgt. Jeremy Wright, 31, was killed during a routine patrol when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb near Kabul, his stepfather, William Nickel, told news publications in Wright’s native Indiana. He died instantly when the device exploded near his vehicle.Two other soldiers were wounded and taken to a military hospital in Germany, according to a U.S. Army news release. Wright joined the Army two years ago and was sent to Afghanistan last November. He was a Special Forces communications sergeant assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), based in Fort Lewis, Wash., the Army said. “He had gone into Special Forces right off the street,” Nickel told the Indianapolis Star. “The military had always intrigued him.”Wright moved to the Vail Valley nine years ago, and quickly established himself as one of the area’s foremost distance runners.”He was a brilliant young man and a tremendous athlete,” longtime friend James Deighan said. Wright had completed the course work for his doctorate in microbiology and had been accepted to the Indiana University medical school, Deighan said.Wright had decided to take a little time to collect his focus and thought the Army was the right place for it, Deighan said. Wright dominated local distance running and snowshoe competitions, including the Vail Hill Climb and the Pikes Peak Marathon, Deighan said. Wright is also a former winner of America’s Uphill on Aspen Mountain.”He was an accomplished runner and an accomplished intellect,” Deighan said. “He was thoughtful and resourceful.”A native of Shelbyville, Ind., Wright enlisted in the Army in November 2001 under the service’s then-new Special Forces Recruiting Initiative, a program that enables civilian recruits to volunteer for special forces. Previously, only currently serving soldiers could be part of the program, the Army said. Wright was a 1996 graduate of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., and was a two-time All-American cross-country runner there and won seven collegiate conference titles. He was also a three-time member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team and was the Indiana state high school champion in the 3,200-meter run, the Army said. Wright’s military awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Parachutist Badge, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Special Forces Tab.Wright is survived by his father, Dale Wright, of Flat Rock, Ind., and his mother, Jacquelyn Nickel and stepfather William Nickel, of Shelbyville, Ind., according to the Indianapolis Star. Athletes in the Vail Valley are planning a memorial snowshoe race. Details for the race, and Wright’s funeral, are pending.
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