The world has lost another light. A great spirit within the heart of strong man has been extinguished. He was a special warrior entrusted with a special task; to be hurled into the thickness of battle in order to stop the most evil of men.
Oct 22, 2015. Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, died leading his Delta Force team on the primary assault into an Islamic State compound in Iraq. He was deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. MSgt. Wheeler, assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was killed by enemy gunfire near Hawijah, Iraq. The night raid was conducted in order to free 70 hostages that were held by ISIS militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
MSgt. Wheeler’s body was flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday. The Kurdistan Regional Government released Video footage showing American and Kurdish forces freeing hostages from a militant held prison. The Defense Department maintains that his death was not the result of a direct combat role. MSgt. Wheeler was the first U.S. combat fatality of the campaign against ISIS since the U.S. began its campaign against the Islamic State there in 2014.
Our nation lost one of her best sons. A man who exemplified all that is good and noble in the warrior ranks.
Why do good men die? Why do warriors die?
There is little we can know about MSgt. Wheeler unless we served with him. He was part of a super-secretive elite counter terrorism unit. The nation’s best. We know from news reports that, “Wheeler entered the U.S. Army in May 1995 and trained as an infantryman. He was first assigned to 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis, Washington.
In 1997, he transitioned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis, where he served for over seven years as an infantryman, rifle team leader, squad leader, weapons squad leader and anti-tank section leader, deploying three times in support of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Army.
From there, his special operations career led him to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. He participated in 11 more combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan”
We don’t know anything about his personal views. Being a quiet professional meant being a breed apart. A man of enormous courage, resiliency, and focus. These are just some attributes of a great warrior.
He knew the risks. He was a pro at understanding conflict and the inherent dangers that went with his job but he didn’t shirk his duties. He welcomed challenge and the opportunity to serve the country that he believed is the greatest nation of all. He served in Delta’s ranks despite knowing that it meant leaving behind his wife and four sons without a father for a period of time. He also knew his chances of dying were great.
He was good at what he did yet sometimes good men die.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
MSgt. Wheeler knew the answer to the question. With a distinguished career in the Army it is likely he saw his share of death and also the loss of many good friends. Our nation has been engaged in conflict for over a decade now. Many warriors coming home know the pain of losing someone. We must fall back on that hurt to understand someone else’s loss, someone else’s pain. We must let it’s presence allow us to gain compassion for his wife, and sons and friends who miss his presence.
We lost a warrior who did work that most men are incapable of doing. We must honor the great warrior we lost.
Along the vast expanse of black night stretched out seemingly forever like a desolate sea, comes a sense of loneliness, yet we must reassure ourselves that whatever pain we feel is for a good cause. Whatever rage we have, whatever magnificent tears come, whatever memory returns, we must be authentic in allowing these things to return in their intense forms so our faith is never vague. We must lean on what we know to understand what we just lost. Never forget. Never forget. Never forget…
For the love of his country he accepted death. This is what warriors know.
Lights crackle in dark houses. Night climbs upon rickety stairs and as warriors rise they carry within them grief from the loss of another man. But Joshua Wheeler is not gone.