It’s been nearly a century since Lincoln County World War I veteran Private David Milo Wright gave his life in the midst of battle.
For the last three years, members of the American Legion Post 30 have wanted to celebrate the local soldier’s life and sacrifice.
Just 14 months after Wright enlisted, the 19-year-old died in 1918, while fighting in France alongside 200 other United States infantrymen in World War I, Legion officials said.
Wright was a member of the American 1st Division, one of the original infantry units to fight in France during the war, according to a Post 30 press release.
Wright’s remains returned to Lincolnton three years after his death, the release said.
Friends and family united to receive the body, which they buried the following day at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church.
His parents were also laid to rest at the church in later years.
Men with Post 30, established a year after Wright’s death, the release said, served as pallbearers at the funeral, a ceremony covered by the local paper at the time, the Lincoln County News, a forerunner of the Lincoln Times-News.
Legion member Tom Hawk, a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force, believed area residents would greatly benefit from a special graveside ceremony this month honoring Wright.
The event, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Pleasant Grove UMC, will offer residents a snapshot of their past.
“We want people in Lincolnton to know their history,” Hawk said.
Thursday is the 96th anniversary of the private’s death, he said.
Instead of waiting four more years to pay tribute to the private on the 100th anniversary of his patriotic sacrifice, Legion members thought it better to recognize the soldier’s contribution sooner rather than later.
Wright’s nieces, sisters Catherine Jackson and Rebecca Wright, along with distant cousin Ann Huss will also be present at the ceremony, which will commemorate the 12 other Lincoln County soldiers who lost their lives during World War I.
All 13 of the men are listed on a stone monument in front of the Lincoln County courthouse.
“If you want to know what Memorial Day is all about,” Hawk said tearing up, “Go up and read the monuments. Those men never got to live their lives and come back to Lincolnton, other than in a casket.”
Following the event’s presentation of colors, National Anthem and an invocation from Post 30 chaplain Rev. Hubert Clinard, Hawk will read Wright’s biography followed by family members’ placement of a special wreath on the private’s grave.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for several years,” Hawk said.
Since Wright was buried with full military honors, Legion members hoped to duplicate the original, early 20th-century ceremony.
Research on Wright began a few years ago, Hawk said, by a Post 30 member.
Hawk obtained the information, which lay dormant on his computer for quite some time before he decided to do something memorable with it.
Members later found a black and white photo of Wright hanging in the foyer at Post headquarters.
Without the writing on the back of the framed picture designating the soldier’s name and the year it was taken, the photo would have remained a mystery.
American Legion Post 30 urged the entire community, along with additional living relatives of Wright, to attend Thursday’s graveside ceremony.
Family members may contact Tom Hawk at (704) 735-0550 for more information.