“IN HONOR OF THOSE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY”
Memorial at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia
“For the men and women of CIA, this constellation is more than a memorial, more than a quiet tribute. Each star holds memories of a brave intelligence officer whose example we follow, a treasured colleague whose wisdom we keep, or a lost friend whose laughter we miss. Time does not soothe the pain that accompanies thoughts of what might have been. But we can take comfort in knowing what is: The men and women behind these stars lived nobly, served selflessly, and died honorably. They inspire us all. Our nation owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude. We will repay it by living the values they demonstrated so clearly: Loyalty, integrity, excellence and service—these are the things that must guide our work. And then, we will be worthy of their sacrifice.”
“Through his example, Greg taught those around him the keys to a full life. Known as Puddy, Greg made friends very easily. He listened. He laughed. He led his friends to see the good in every situation. His broad smile and abundant charisma made an immediate impression on everyone who met him. He drew people in and brought them together. Above all when we think of Greg, we will remember his generous spirit.”
General Mike Hayden — Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2007 CIA Memorial Ceremony)
August 5 2019 — Currently, there are 133 stars carved into the marble of the CIA Memorial Wall: 93 are unclassified. Who are those men and women? When did they die? Why are they honored by a star? Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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In 1974, the CIA dedicated the Memorial Wall with 31 stars in 1974 to honor those who had fallen since the Agency’s founding in 1947.
Since the attacks of September 11 2001, 55 stars have been added to the Book of Honor and the Memorial Wall.
During the 2007 CIA Memorial Ceremony, four stars were added to the Wall.
Why This Series?
The book is a very good source of information. Its Amazon page reads:
A national bestseller, this extraordinary work of investigative reporting uncovers the identities, and the remarkable stories, of the CIA secret agents who died anonymously in the service of their country.
In the entrance of the CIA headquarters looms a huge marble wall into which seventy-one stars are carved-each representing an agent who has died in the line of duty. Official CIA records only name thirty-five of them, however.
Undeterred by claims that revealing the identities of these “nameless stars” might compromise national security, Ted Gup sorted through thousands of documents and interviewed over 400 CIA officers in his attempt to bring their long-hidden stories to light.
The result of this extraordinary work of investigation is a surprising glimpse at the real lives of secret agents, and an unprecedented history of the most compelling—and controversial—department of the US government.
However, the book was published in May 2001, and the number of stars on the CIA wall has almost doubled since then.
Many of these additional stars are nameless. But even the named ones have not been the object of a systematic study, let alone a book.
Please, keep in mind that if the US Congress decides to pass the new version of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), writing an update of Gup’s book would most likely be illegal.
On May 20 2019, the Washington Post revealed the name of Ranya Abdelsayed (04/28/1979) who joined the CIA in 2006.
On August 28 2013, while serving in Afghanistan, she committed suicide. Again, such disclosure will no longer be possible if the expanded version of the IIPA is passed.
This being said, we now return to the subject of this post: CIA star 86.
The 2007 CIA Memorial Ceremony
These four new stars honor James McGrath, Stephen Kasarda, Gregory R. Wright and Rachel Dean.
Comment 1 — You will notice that no ceremonies were held in 2005 and 2006. Why? I do not know the answer, but obviously, Porter Johnston Goss was the last Director of Central Intelligence (DCI — September 24, 2004 – April 21, 2005) and the first Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (April 21, 2005 – May 5, 2006) following the passage of the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which abolished the DCI position and replaced it with the Director of National Intelligence on April 21, 2005.
Comment 2 — Although the name of Gregory R. Wright was not made public at the time of the ceremony, it was eventually disclosed. However, the CIA has posted contradictory pieces of information regarding his star.
Comment 3 — When the CIA honor several officers with a star during the same ceremony, I have no way of knowing the star number of a given individual. However, according to the CIA, Rachel Dean is star 87. I will therefore assume that — in such case — the stars are ranked according to the year of death.
Star 86 : Gregory R. Wright (Northern Iraq December 7 2005)
According to the CIA,
“Greg’s star on the CIA Wall of Honor was carved in 2006, one year after his death. During the CIA’s annual ceremony to commemorate those on the Wall, Director Hayden shared Greg’s story with the intimate crowd of friends, family members and colleagues who attended to honor the fallen officers.”
However the CIA website post describing the 2007 ceremony claims [CIA Adds Four Stars to Memorial Wall] that:
“At a ceremony this morning in front of the Memorial Wall in its headquarters lobby, the Central Intelligence Agency honored the 87 Americans who have died while performing its mission of national security. That includes four whose service to our nation is represented by stars engraved earlier this spring .”
There appears to be a contradiction regarding the time at which Gregory Wright star was engraved.
Gregory R. Wright Jr. was born in the Naval Hospital on the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, and as a member of a military family, he moved 15 times in his first 13 years. In 1987, his family moved back to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and opened an Irish pub. Greg later enjoyed the camaraderie of working there. He also reconnected with his former middle-school friends. Greg entered First Colonial High School, where he played defensive end on the varsity football team and, because of his popularity and his wide range of friends, he was elected “Mr. First Colonial.” He graduated in 1990.
Greg entered the Virginia Military Institute (VMI); while there he played football, was chief of the VMI Emergency Response Team, and served as chief of the VMI Forest Fire Fighting team. He also volunteered with the Lexington, Virginia, Firefighters and Rescue Squad where, among other duties, he served as an ambulance driver. To say that Greg enjoyed contributing to his community is an understatement.
Greg graduated from VMI in 1996 and joined the Marine Corps. He attended Officers’ Candidate School, the Advanced Infantry Course, the Scout-Sniper School and the Army Intelligence School. Greg stayed close to his schoolmates from VMI while he made new friends with a group of Navy Seals.
Life at the CIA:
Greg left the Marine Corps in 2000 and launched a new career as a highly trained, special security services officer, traveling around the world protecting key individuals. Among the many dignitaries he protected were information technology mogul Steve Case and his family; former Secretary of State Madeline Albright; and then-DCI George Tenet.
His Final Mission:
In 2005, following a successful agent meeting in a Middle Eastern country, several CIA officers and Greg were returning to base in a vehicle when they were ambushed by an unidentified number of individuals on the main highway. The officers took evasive action, and a 40-kilometer chase ensued during which hundreds of rounds impacted the vehicle.
At a CIA memorial Service, then-Director of CIA General Michael Hayden commented on Greg’s actions: “At the wheel of the car he was as calm and professional as ever, despite the growing chaos and confusion all around him.”
Eventually, the engine failed and caught on fire, forcing the occupants out of the vehicle. The four men took up a defensive position and attempted to move to a safer location. One Agency officer was shot. Greg shielded him in order to give him an opportunity to bandage his wound and, in the process, Greg was shot in the leg. Help arrived shortly thereafter and the ambushers relented. The injured were taken to a nearby clinic and treated, but Greg died at the scene. He was 32 years old.
Greg Wright died while demonstrating extraordinary valor. His courage and sound judgment under direct fire very likely saved the lives of the other officers. Greg’s associates, both at headquarters and in the field, recognize and appreciate his contributions as a contractor who worked side-by-side with Agency employees, and who died while protecting them.
His honor, courage and sacrifice reinforce the importance of industrial and other contractors’ contributions and their dedication to our dangerous mission. [CIA website]
July 1974 — The Memorial Wall is created; 31 stars chiseled into the marble.
1987 — First Memorial Ceremony is held with Deputy Director Robert M. Gates presiding; number of stars on the wall has grown to 50.
1997 — 70 stars, 29 of which had names
2002 — 79 stars
2004 — 83 stars
2009 — 90 stars
2013 — 107 stars
2014 — 111 stars
2016 — 117 stars
May 2017 — 8 new stars; 125 stars chiseled into the wall
May 2018 — 4 new stars; 129 stars
May 2019 — 4 new stars; 133 stars
Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Greg Wright — CIA Website
CIA Adds Four Stars to Memorial Wall (May 21, 2007) — CIA Website
The CIA Book of Honor — Star 86 : Gregory R. Wright