Joe L. Wrightsman – Sergeant, United States Marine Corps

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

July 22, 2010

DOD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Corporal Joe L. Wrightsman, 23, of Jonesboro, Louisiana, died July 18, 2010, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Joe L. Wrightsman is the son of Joe Merritt and Kathy Webb.  He and his sister were adopted by their paternal aunt and uncle, Connie and John Wrightsman, and Joe spent his early childhood in Kitsap County, Washington.  At age thirteen he moved with his mom and siblings to Louisiana.

He was a multi-sport athlete at Jonesboro Hodge High School.  He ran track and cross country, and played football.  Joe was a leader among his peers and would always stand with the underdog.  Just his presence was enough to keep the tougher kids from picking on those he befriended.

His grandmother, Buffy Langford of Poulsbo, Louisiana, said Wrightsman was infatuated with the Marines as a teenager, and couldn’t wait to enlist.  With the lure of scholarship funding and hope for a better life, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in May of 2005 and attended the School of Infantry the following August.

Wrightsman joined the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corp Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay in October 2005, and served as a rifleman and team leader with Kilo Company.


Joe completed two deployments to Iraq, and when volunteers were sought for Afghanistan, family members asked him not to go, according to his grandmother.  But “He wanted to be there for his country, and he was a Marine to his heart,” said Langford.  “He’s one young man who got to live his dreams.”  So Wrightsman went off to his third deployment in May of 2010, when his unit deployed to Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations in partnership with Afghan National Security Forces.

“He liked to be out front,” said his father John Wrightsman. “He was one of the guys who like to be right out front.”  But the 23 year old was also a jokester with his fellow Marines.  “Funny, kind of goofy, can be goofy,” John Wrightsman added.

An official report on the circumstances surrounding Wrightsman’s death on July 18, 2010, has not been made available. But his grandmother said that while Wrightsman and his unit were patrolling with Afghan trainees, they attempted to wade across the chest-deep, fast-flowing Helmand River.  Wrightsman made it, but he turned to notice his Afghan partner was having trouble.  His former First Sergeant with Kilo Company posted the following details in an online tribute:

“Corporal Wrightsman was part of a patrol crossing the Helmand River when a member of the Afghan National Police was swept away in the river behind him. Without hesitation, Corporal Wrightsman, in full personal protective gear, dove into the water in an effort to rescue the ANP.

Upon hearing what happened, nearly every one of us that knew him immediately thought: “But Wrightsman can’t swim!” Fortunately, America still breeds men with a bias for action who don’t dwell on what they can’t do. He heedlessly went after a man who wasn’t a fellow Marine or even an American.

He was last seen about 50 feet downstream when he surfaced briefly. Four other Marines dropped their gear and went in after him, but were unable to find anything.”

Wrightsman’s body was eventually found about a mile away. The Afghani soldier also died, and his body was also recovered.

Corporal Wrightsman’s personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal and the NATO-International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan Medal.

One final word from his former First Sergeant: “All Corporal Wrightsman cared about was being a Marine and taking care of his squad. Yeah, that’s just about my breed of Marine I’d say.”

A friend named Richard posted the following to an online tribute page “Joe Wrightsman was a childhood friend of mine, and it doesn’t surprise me how many people he touched in his short life. He was always helping other people, he never hated anyone he came across, everyone liked him. He wasn’t fake, who you saw was who Joe was.”

Joe Wrightsman is survived by a son, his parents, nine brothers and eight sisters, and his fiancee Kiara.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 03/03/1987
  • DATE OF DEATH: 07/18/2010





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