The memorial service for the first American soldier killed on duty in the war against ISIS ended was held on Tuesday (November 24), 10:00 am, at the Trinity United Methodist Church. The burial ceremony for Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who perished in action during a rescue mission on October 22, was attended by his close friends, family members, and fellow soldiers in the military. The Agent Mallory-Martin Funeral Home in Sallisaw took charge of the event, according to Times Record Online. Master Sgt. Wheeler, 39, was laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Master Sgt. Wheeler succumbed to the wounds he incurred in the crossfire that transpired during his team's rescue mission in the Kirkuk province of Iraq. The fallen soldier was part of the Operation Inherent Resolve, which aimed to deliver safely the hostages taken by the terrorist group ISIS. The said operation managed to rescue the 70 hostages. The Pentagon disclosed that the open fire that occurred took the lives of 20 ISIS fighters, while five were detained and questioned, according to Military.com.
The rescue mission saw the halt in the plans of the ISIS to execute 70 hostages. According to sources, the terror group had been set on the mass execution as graves were already dug at the time. The immediate response of Master Sgt. Wheeler and his team effectively stopped the planned murders. However, the terrorists retaliated following the discovery of the rescue mission and the exchange of fire resulted in the American soldier's fatal injuries.
"He was a soldier, but I didn't realize he had all of these accomplishments, all these achievements - it just blows my mind," said Zack, the brother of Master Sgt. Wheeler, during the memorial tribute held in his honor in his hometown in Roland, Oklahoma, according to 5News TV. The mourning family member added, "He's an American hero. That's just how Josh was. He just wanted to take care of people. I just hope his sons know how big of a hero he was."
Master Sgt. Wheeler graduated from Muldrow High School in 1994. He became part of the US Military in May 1995 when he entered as an infantryman. Throughout his career, he garnered some awards for his service to the nation. These included 11 Bronze Stars in which four had been for valor as well as a Purple Heart, which was given posthumously.
"I wish everybody could have known him," shared Tra Moreland, a high school classmate of Master Sgt. Wheeler. She added, "If you would have asked me 20 years ago, 'Would he be the man -- the kind of man to do this, to give his life for everyone else?' I'd say, 'Most definitely.'"
Master Sgt. Wheeler is survived by his wife and four sons, the youngest of which was born in August 2015.