Donald Laverne Wheeler Jr.
Company C 1-22 Infantry
4th Infantry Division (Mechanized)
KIA October 13, 2003
Spc. Donald L. Wheeler
of Concord, Mich., was searching for explosives in Tikrit, Iraq,
when his unit was attacked with a rocket propelled grenade.
Michigan soldier killed in Tikrit
By Associated Press
CONCORD -- Donald Laverne
Wheeler Jr. -- named after an uncle who was killed in the Korean
War -- died Monday
in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Tikrit, Iraq.
Wheeler, a 22-year-old Army specialist
in the 4th Infantry Division, grew up as one of 12 brothers and
sisters in Concord, 15 miles southwest of Jackson.
He is the second Michigan soldier killed in action since President Bush announced the end of combat operations last May.
Wheeler was killed while on patrol in this Tigris River city 90 miles north of Baghdad.
"When 9-11 happened he came to ...
us and said, 'I need to be fighting this evil,' and he joined the
Army," his mother, Mary Catherine Wheeler,
said Tuesday. Wheeler is the only Wheeler child who joined the armed forces. However, he was inspired by his grandfather, who was
a World War II veteran, his mother said. "He went over from Fort Hood, and he said, 'The only thing I need is my rosary and prayer book
that my grandpa gave me and I will be OK,' " she said. "We think of him as a hero," she said. "We support our troops and what President Bush is doing.
There isn't the slightest doubt that we are doing the right thing."
The 6-foot-5 gunner graduated from
Jackson Lumen Christi High School in 1999 and was an offensive
lineman on the Titans football team
that made the regional finals. Lumen Christi coach Herb Brogan described Wheeler as "a good solid, hardworking kid."
Wheeler's body will be flown home within a week, and then funeral arrangements will be made.
Wheeler missed several graduations, a
wedding and other family events during his absence. His family
created a 5-foot-tall blown-up photo of him
on cardboard and placed it behind the head table at his sister's wedding, but had to take it down because his sister wouldn't stop crying.
On Tuesday, the oversized photo stood behind the living room couch, surrounded by other pictures of Wheeler. Wheeler's mother said
she had a premonition that something had happened to her son Monday morning.
From The Detroit News http://www.detnews.com/
Specialist Donald L. Wheeler's decorations
Above taken from the Freedom Remembered website
Farewell to fallen soldier
Family, friends say final goodbyes to Concord man killed in Iraq
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
"Evil was chosen, but good prevailed."
Those were just a few of the words selected by Mary Cay Wheeler to honor a beloved son of 22 years during a funeral Mass on Tuesday.
Donald L. Wheeler Jr. was killed in action in Tikrit, Iraq, on
Oct. 13. On Tuesday, he was laid to rest with full military
in Maplegrove Cemetery in Concord.
In addition to his mother, and father, Don Wheeler, the young soldier's immediate family consists of eight brothers and three sisters.
of people either attended the service or took time out of the day
to line the procession route to honor the fallen soldier,
known affectionately to friends and family as "D.J."
procession from Queen of the Miraculous Medal Church passed
hundreds of American flags along the way.
About a dozen fire trucks from area fire departments lined M-60 in Spring Arbor. Every tree, post and pole was wrapped
in yellow ribbon between the highway and the young soldier's final resting place.
Main Street in Concord, old people watched from benches, a small
American flag clutched in each hand. Children from
nearby Concord middle and elementary schools were released from classes to watch; the school band played
the national anthem when the procession arrived.
Sprague, painting a house across the street, stopped working.
"I changed my clothes and came over here out of
residents Nancy Coon and her husband, Rusty, also waited at the
cemetery gates. "We lost a fine young man,
a community man, and a hero," Nancy Coon said, as she waited, holding a large American flag on a flagstaff.
who gathered under a threatening gray sky for graveside services
at Maplegrove watched as Wheeler received three medals
posthumously: the Bronze Star, for meritorious service; the Purple Heart; and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Seven riflemen in the Army honor guard fired three volleys and a lone soldier behind the crowd blew taps.
the service at Queen of the Miraculous Medal Church, every pew
was filled with former classmates and friends,
relatives or sometimes, complete strangers.
Paul Hullinger, a member of the Army Reserve in Lansing, came
down in uniform with two of his comrades.
Hullinger did not know Wheeler, but felt it was his duty to attend the service. "To support a fellow soldier," Hullinger said.
"And to honor the family."
Woolsey, a government and history teacher at Lumen Christi High
School, said Wheeler was a student of his.
"I think D.J. died in service to his country. I know that was very important to him."
Rev. Thomas Nenneau, who conducted the Mass, honored Wheeler as a
man of commitment. "He was willing to lay his life
on the line for something greater than himself," he told the congregation. "He was a good soldier because he was a good comrade.
He would lift up their spirits. He used his own goodness and his own joyfulness to lift them up."
positive attitude and infectious smile earned him the nickname
"Sunshine" in his company, which is part of
the Army's 4th Infantry Division.
assigned to C Company in the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry
Regiment. He was slain when his Bradley armored vehicle
was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade while on a mission in Tikrit, north of Baghdad.
Wheeler was the first Jackson County soldier killed in Iraq since the war began in March.
tribute from the Michigan House of Representatives, Rep. Clark
Bisbee, R-Jackson, said Wheeler's death
"reminds us how fragile life can be and that the freedoms we all enjoy in this country are not free."
from Ecclesiastes, Mary Cay Wheeler reminded those gathered
inside that there is a time for everything.
"Oct. 13, 2003, was Donald Laveren Wheeler's last day on Earth and his first day in heaven," she said.
"He had total faith and trust in God. He remained hope-filled and cheerful."
Cay read excerpts from Wheeler's letters home, including a
passage where he consoled,
"everything will all work out in the end."
"That is where our hope lies," she said. "Trust God, this will all work out in the end.
"I love you D.J. Thank you for the privilege of being called your mom."
-- Reach reporter Paul Overeiner at 768-4917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackson Citizen Patriot
1-22 Regulars grieve at
the memorial service for Donald Wheeler and James Powell
held in Tikrit, Iraq
Regiment hails two fallen soldiers
Iraq - With Psalms and a 21-gun salute yesterday,
soldiers hailed two fallen comrades from the 1st Battalion 22nd
in a memorial service at one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.
than 190 American soldiers have been killed by hostile fire since
President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq on May 1.
But the two deaths
were especially poignant because they occurred within 24 hours and within the same regiment, which is stationed in one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq.
Spc. James Powell, 26, was killed Sunday when his Bradley armored vehicle struck a land mine near Beiji, 30 miles north of Tikrit.
He was born in Mark Center, Ohio, but listed Radcliff, Ky., as his hometown of record, the Army said.
graduated from high school in Columbus. He then enlisted in the
Navy in Columbus and served from June 1997 to June 2000, said
a spokesman for Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tenn.
was a seaman apprentice on the USS Arctic, based in Earle, N.J.,
McLellan said. He enlisted in the Army in January 2001, said Dan
a spokesman at Fort Hood in Texas.
Spc. Donald Wheeler, of Concord, Mich., was killed in an attack Monday in downtown Tikrit, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle.
Their units are part of the 4th Infantry Division, which controls a large swath of northern Iraq and is based in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown 120 miles north of Baghdad.
Tikrit lies at the heart of the Sunni Triangle, the region north and west of the Iraqi capital where most of the attacks have taken place.
Several hundred soldiers, including those of Wheeler's Charlie Company and Powell's Bravo Company, gathered at the downtown palace for the somber ceremony.
two soldiers' helmets were placed together with their name tags
over their rifle butts, next to their boots on a small podium
adorned with the U.S. flag and the regimental banner. Medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, were awarded posthumously
to Wheeler and Powell, and placed next to their rifles.
"We mourn their loss; we honor their sacrifice," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, the battalion commander.
commanders recounted how Powell had volunteered for a combat
mission although he was due for home leave within days,
and talked of Wheeler's "contagious smile and boundless enthusiasm."
© 2003 The Plain Dealer.
1-22 Regulars salute at the memorial service for Donald Wheeler and James Powell
Donald L. Wheeler
Portrait from the Fallen Heroes Project website
CONCORD, MI, USA
SPC, COMPANY A 1ST BATTALION 22ND INFANTRY, FORT HOOD, TX 76544
TIKRIT, IRAQ 10/13/2003
Donald Laverne Wheeler DJ graduated from Jackson Lumen Christi Catholic High School where he enjoyed playing football.
The 6-foot-5 athlete was an offensive lineman on the Titans football team which he helped carry to the regional finals.
After graduating he worked as a machine operator at Concord Manufacturing Company, the factory owned by his family. Other hobbies included basketball,
snowmobiling, paint balling, and go-carting. DJ could often be found listening to loud music in his truck, being with friends, family and enjoying life.
A U.S. Army gunner, SPC DJ Wheeler was a specialist with the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 1-22nd Infantry Regiment Company stationed
in Fort Hood, Texas. He chose Fort Hood because his grandfather was stationed there before his service in World War II and he looked up to him dearly.
Spc. Donald Laverne Wheeler was affectionately
known as "DJ" to his family, which included three
sisters and eight brothers.
In the military, he picked up the nickname "Sunshine." "They called him Sunshine at Fort Hood in Texas because he was so tall he stood out
from everyone else and he was always smiling," said one of his sisters, Andrea Barrett. Wheeler died on October 13, 2003 in an attack in Tikrit.
His mother, Mary Cay Wheeler, said he decided to enlist after the Sept. 11 attacks. "He loved the Army but at the same time he missed his family",
she said. They had a photo of Wheeler blown up to near life size and brought it to his sister's wedding reception because he couldn't attend.
"I shall always remember him, a big kid who gave everything he had on that dusty day," said Lt. Jason Price at a memorial service in Tikrit.
"It's difficult to say goodbye."
from Brainster Blogspot
Maple Grove Cemetery
The grave marker for Donald L. Wheeler Jr.
Photo by Mary Cosepalmer from the Find A Grave website
The grave marker for Donald L. Wheeler Jr.
Photo by Mary Cosepalmer from the Find A Grave website
The VFW Post 823 Flag named in honor of Donald L. Wheeler
The Jackson Citizen Patriot
Monday, May 22, 2006 By Lindsay VanHullelvanhulle@citpat.com -- 768-4945
His family called him DJ. His full name, Donald, wasn't heard too often around the house.
Those who knew him said he was compassionate, liked loud music and had a good work ethic.
But Spc. Donald L. Wheeler Jr. also was a soldier. A soldier who died while serving his country.
Wheeler's memory was honored Sunday by the
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 823, which renamed itself the
Donald L. Wheeler Jr. Post
during a rededication ceremony.
The name was officially changed from the Caldwell-Clark Post, after two World War I doughboys.
"It's very heartfelt," said Wheeler's father, Don Wheeler of Concord. "The last 21/2 years have been hard, but there's been great support.
"He's truly missed."
Wheeler, who served in the Army's 4th Infantry
Division, was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in Tikrit,
Iraq, in October 2003. He became
the first Jackson County casualty from the Iraq War. He was 22.
Michael O'Keefe, a trustee with the post at
1190 Falahee Road, originally thought of the idea to rename the
post and said it is both a way
to honor Wheeler and encourage more people to join the VFW.
"We need to be progressive," O'Keefe said of the rededication. "It means a lot to me."
A post is not often renamed, O'Keefe said.
The post needed to seek VFW approval at the district and state levels before the name was officially changed.
Wheeler's parents, Don and Mary Catherine
Wheeler, were in attendance at the rededication ceremony, as well
as several of Wheeler's siblings
and state and national legislators.
"It was such a deep honor and very
humbling to think that the community was still supportive of our
struggle and our loss," Mary Catherine Wheeler said
during the ceremony, visibly emotional and clutching in her right hand a crucifix that belonged to her son.
During the ceremony, several people in the
audience wiped their eyes as family members and legislators
spoke. Wheeler's parents were presented
with a plaque, a T-shirt and a candle in honor of their son.
Wheeler's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Steve Russell, said Wheeler was good with people and good at his job.
"I wish I had had hundreds of him," Russell said. "You can always tell a good soldier when they have a positive attitude, when they have a good work ethic.
"The soldiers around him, they respected him a great deal."
Russell said Wheeler was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
"Remembering him is not the same as honoring him," Russell said. "We pledged as long as we have breath, we should never forget him."
Local VFW Changes Name to
Honor Fallen Soldier
May 22, 2006 04:55 AM CDT
soldier's name will live on after he pays the ultimate sacrifice.
A Jackson VFW post has changed its name to honor
the county's first fallen soldier from the war in Iraq. The flags wave proudly in the wind, flying high over VFW Post 823 in Jackson,
and now a new flag hangs inside. VFW 823 now officially bears the name of the first area soldier killed in Iraq.
Mary Catherine Wheeler, soldier's mother: "Specialist Donald L. Wheeler, we never got to call him that because he earned that right in Iraq."
Known to those
who loved him as "DJ," the 21-year-old Concord native
died in October of 2003. Wheeler's former commander
traveled across the country to see his soldier's name become part of Michigan history.
Lt.Col. Steve Russell, US Army: "It just shows the importance of what he was fighting for."
And it's a way to give comfort to a grieving family.
Mary Catherine Wheeler: "The empty, the wound that losing your son leaves is always going to be there."
It's an honor the VFW fought hard to bestow upon DJ.
Pamela McCrum, VFW 823 Auxiliary President: "We had to get approval from the state and national to do this."
But a fight that was well worth
the effort. DJ's family says one of his most-cherished
duties in the Army was to raise and lower the flag.
Now the flags will honor him in return.
Mary Catherine Wheeler:
"This flag means more than just our country, it is the very
blood and water of our men and women
who lay their life out for us."
Remarks given by LTC Steve Russell
at VFW Post dedication to D.J. Wheeler, 21 May 2006
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, FELLOW VETERANS, FRIENDS AND ESPECIALLY TO THE FAMILY OF DJ WHEELER, IT MEANS A GREAT DEAL TO COME HERE AND PARTICIPATE IN THE HONORING OF A GREAT SOLDIER THAT I HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO SERVE WITH IN IRAQ.
SPECIALIST D.J. WHEELER WAS A GREAT SOLDIER. NOT BECAUSE HE IS GONE AND WE TRY TO REMEMBER HIM KINDLY, BUT BECAUSE HE WAS TRULY A GREAT SOLDIER. WHEELER HAD AN EASY-GOING STYLE AND CONFIDENCE. HE WAS GOOD WITH PEOPLE. HE WAS GOOD AT HIS JOB. HE KNEW HIS WEAPONS AND HOW TO FOLLOW ORDERS BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, HIS PEERS SEEMED TO DEFER TO HIM.
DEFERRED LEADERSHIP IS THE MOST POWERFUL KIND BECAUSE IT IS USUALLY GIVEN TO AN INDIVIDUAL SOLELY AS A RESULT OF HAVING EARNED THE RESPECT OF OTHERS. THEY LOOKED UP TO HIM. I WISHED I HAD HAD HUNDREDS OF HIM. THAT IS WHY HIS LOSS WAS FELT SO DEEPLY BY US ALL.
A DAY DOES NOT GO BY THAT I DO NOT THINK ABOUT THE SOLDIERS I COMMANDED AND THOSE THAT DID NOT COME HOME WITH US. IN OCTOBER 2003 IN TIKRIT, IRAQ, I SAID GOOD BYE TO WHEELER AND ANOTHER SOLDIER NAMED JAMES EDWARD POWELL THAT DIED ABOUT 12 HOURS AFTER D.J. AS WE PAID OUR RESPECTS, WE PLEDGED THAT AS LONG AS WE HAVE BREATH, WE SHOULD NEVER FORGET THEM. THAT IS WHY A DEDICATION SUCH AS THIS ONE MEANS SO MUCH TO US AND FOR THAT WE ALL SAY, THANK YOU.
BUT REMEMBERING IS NOT THE SAME AS HONORING. TODAY YOU HAVE TRULY HONORED WHEELER IN YOUR ACTIONS. BUT HAVING DONE SO, WE CANNOT NOW JUST REMEMBER HIM. WHEN WE HONOR SOMETHING, WE EXTEND INTO ACTION THE SPIRIT OF WHAT IT IS, OR WAS. WE HONOR OUR PARENTS BY LIVING OUT THE CHARACTER THEY TAUGHT US. WE HONOR OUR GOD BY CONDUCTING OURSELVES AS HE WOULD WANT US TO. WE HONOR OUR SOLDIERS BY MAKING GOOD ON THE THINGS THEY FOUGHT FOR.
AMERICANS TODAY SEEM APPREHENSIVE ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE BEEN FIGHTING FOR. BUT NO ONE UNDERSTANDS IT MORE OR BELIEVES IN IT DEEPER THAN SOLDIERS LIKE WHEELER AND THOSE THAT SERVED WITH HIM AND CONTINUE TO SERVE. HOW WILL WE HONOR WHEELERS LIFE AND OTHERS THAT WE HAVE LOST? THEY DESERVE MORE THAN JUST STONE AND BRONZE AND PLACE NAMES. OUR PRAYER IS THAT AMERICA WILL LET US WIN. WE CAN GET THIS DONE. THEY SERVED FOR AMERICA. AMERICA CAN NOW SACRIFICE FOR THEM. SACRIFICE DOUBT. SACRIFICE ANXIETY. SACRIFICE THE THOUGHT THAT OUR ENEMIES WILL JUST LEAVE US ALONE IF WE WERENT OVER THERE. SACRIFICE ANYTHING THAT DOES NOT MAKE GOOD ON WHAT SOLDIERS LIKE WHEELER HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES FOR. AND WHEN WE SEE ALL THIS THROUGHAND IT WILL SURELY PASS AS IT HAS IN EVERY GENENRATIONWE WILL HAVE HONORED OUR FALLEN LOVED ONES INSTEAD OF JUST REMEMBERED.
THANKS FOR LETTING ME SHARE WITH YOU TODAY AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL.
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