Joshua Wheeler, American U.S. Army soldier, Died at 39

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Joshua L. Wheeler was born on November 22, 1975, and passed away on October 22, 2015.

Joshua was a United States Army Delta Force Master Sergeant who was killed in Iraq during Operation Inherent Resolve.

He was the first American service member killed in action as a result of enemy fire while fighting ISIL militants and at the time of his death was the first American to be killed in action in Iraq since November 2011.

Joshua was a highly-decorated Delta Force soldier having earned 11 Bronze Star Medals including four with Valour Devices.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Joshua was born in Roland, Oklahoma. He graduated from Muldrow High School in Muldrow, Oklahoma in 1994.

Joshua enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1995 as an infantryman and completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He was then stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington and assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment until 1997 when he was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Joshua deployed three times in support of combat operations to Afghanistan and Iraq while with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

In 2004 Wheeler was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was assigned to the United States Army Special Operations Command, deploying 11 times to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of combat operations.

Joshua was killed in the predawn hours of October 22, 2015 during the Operation Inherent Resolve as a result of enemy small-arms fire sustained during a raid on a ISIL prison compound 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) North of the town of Hawija in Iraq’s Kirkuk province.

He was one of around 30 U.S. special operations soldiers who fought alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces to secure the release of approximately 70 hostages, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, being held in the compound.

Joshua was directing the Kurdish attack on the prison and joined the fighting when those who had breached the compound came under fire inside.

Reports stated that Wheeler ran toward the sound of the gun fire and that his actions along with those of one of his teammates ensured the success of the operation and protected those Kurdish fighters who had breached the compound.

The Kurdish Regional Government asked U.S. special operations forces to support an operation to free hostages that were being held in the prison and were going to be executed.

Information had been obtained which stated the hostages faced imminent execution and it was confirmed that the graves had already been prepared for the hostages outside of the compound.

The Kurdish Regional Government stated after the raid that none of the 15 Kurdish fighters who were the object of the operation were found and that none of the approximately 70 hostages who were freed were Kurdish.

Four Kurdish peshmerga soldiers were wounded during the operation.

Five ISIL militants were detained during the operation and approximately 20 were killed.

Joshua died at age 39 in October 2015.

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