As Pamela Wright stepped forward to receive one of the highest awards given to a civilian for service from a two-star general of the U.S. Army, she says her mind drifted back to the many obstacles that she had to overcome throughout her life.
Now as a recent retiree from the Headquarters of the Army (HQDA) after 30 years of stellar service to her country as a civilian member of the Army, she’s faced abuse at 12, early pregnancy, alcohol and drugs, promiscuity, guilt and anger, years of domestic violence from her former husband, homelessness and poverty. But that hasn’t stopped this 66-year-old mother of four sons from finding her way back to God … and to her true destiny.
“As a child, I was abused by someone very close to me and while it was happening, I was afraid, confused and terrified,” she said. “I never imagined that someone who said they loved me would so such awful things to me. That fear grew into promiscuity and I wanted to hurt men.”
Like many youth who have been sexually abused, Wright says she believed that what happened to her had been her fault.
“I began to believe that I was to blame. That I wasn’t pretty enough. I doubted that any man would ever want to have anything to do with me. After the abuse, I no longer felt like I was a flower — I was no longer a beautiful, pure pearl.”
Still, the former high school dropout, facing the prospect of raising four young sons, became resolute in her goal to get off welfare and find a job that would help her pay for her family’s needs. She secured a job with the New York City Police Department’s Intelligence Division upon which she promptly returned her last welfare check to the city.
“The workers at the welfare office gave me a standing ovation,” she said.
Later, while living in Germany with her husband, an Army employee, she developed a plan to leave Europe and return to the U.S., tired of the abuse she’d been forced to endure at her husband’s hands.
“I applied for a job with US Army Intelligence and Security Command and was hired sight unseen,” she said. “I left my children in New York City with my sister and came to D.C. where I began working in 1986. It was the job of a lifetime and I knew that I had to get things together — for my sake and for the sake of my boys.
Wright was among those working at the Pentagon, employed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense in Crystal City, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed four doors away from her office. She narrowly escaped a fireball as it roared into her office.
“When I went back, the phone that I once used had been completely melted,” she said. “I realized than that God had other plans for me. But I had been a real basket case — my husband had done a real number on me. And I wasn’t sure how things would develop. But I never doubted who was really in charge.”
For the five years prior to her retirement, she worked on the staff of an Army general officer, retiring in 2018 as a developmental analyst within the Army G-8 organization.
But earlier experiences began to help her formulate a plan for the future.
“I knew what it was like to be a woman with children and to be homeless and unemployed, struggling to survive on public assistance,” she said. “I had lived in the projects and had been among women who didn’t believe in the possibility of change.
“That’s why I joined the Foundational Power Christian Church in Barry Farms housing community in Southeast and became motivated to help others,” she said. “Since I had made it, I knew others could make it out too.”
Her mantra, she says, has long been: “Help people get from where they are to where they need to be, by changing their lives.”
“This is America,” she noted. “People should not be homeless and sleeping in the woods or on benches or on the ground.
Before retiring, she created Saved Hands Foundation, developing a program for individuals to qualify for administrative support careers as well as creating resumes and assisting residents with job searches. She routinely travels to homeless shelters in Woodbridge, Dumfries and Triangle, Virginia, performing services for free — out of her pocket more often than not — sometimes from among funds from her Foundation — when the funds are available.
Today she’s a minister and administrator of the Face-2-Face Worship Center in Clinton, Maryland, and in 2016 penned a nonfiction book, “The Birds Came Back,” which describes the trauma she suffered and the healing she experienced after the attack on the Pentagon.
“Sometimes you can’t escape tragedy and trauma. But you can turn being a victim into being a victor. You can reclaim the belief that you are beautiful and worthy of being loved. All of my sons are now adults — none of them have ever been in jail or on drugs.”
“I have to keep moving and doing. I used to have to wake up at 3 a.m. every day for work. Now, it’s making me a bit crazy. But working with the homeless is where my heart is, and it gives me real joy and peace to see my sisters escape poverty and abuse.”
“I have a lot of plans for the future and they’re all centered on what God wants me to do. I want for nothing. Nothing could satisfy me more as I move forward because I totally rely on God — except perhaps a loving, God-fearing husband,” she said with a laugh.
For more information about Pamela Wright and her ministry, go to www.savedhandsfoundation.org or call 571-572-9013.
Editor’s Note: I hear that Pamela’s a sensational cook and hostess. I’ll keep you posted.