Soldier Honors Fallen Brother In Iraq
(December 14, 2010)
Pfc. DJ Wheeler, 22, of Concord, Mich., stands for a photo in Iraq, where he was serving as an infantryman. Wheeler was killed Oct. 13, 2003 when a group of insurgents attacked his convoy with rocket propelled grenades. One of Wheeler's brothers, Spc. Dominic Wheeler, also serving in Iraq, recently honored his memory by flying a U.S. flag over the spot where DJ was killed. (Photo by U.S. Army)
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – When 11-year-old Dominic Wheeler watched
his brother DJ leave for Iraq in 2003, his mother asked how
he felt about his brother going to war.
“Just as long as he comes home,” Dominic responded.
Seven months into his deployment DJ was killed on patrol
when a group of insurgents fired several rocket propelled
grenades into his Bradley fighting vehicle. He came home to
be buried in Concord, Mich.
But the story did not end there for Dominic. On the seventh
anniversary of DJ's death he had a unique opportunity to pay
tribute to his brother.
Dominic, now 19, is serving with the Army in Iraq as an
aviation operations specialist. His unit, the 1st Squadron,
6th Cavalry Regiment, a helicopter unit from Fort Riley,
Kan., regularly flies missions in the area where DJ was
Soldiers occasionally bring flags on missions to take home
as combat keepsakes, and the unit gave Dominic the chance to
fly a flag for his brother.
The flags are usually tucked into a cockpit or crew bag, but
the unit arranged to allow Dominic to personally unfurl the
flag over the city. |
On Oct. 13, one of the unit's Black Hawk helicopters made a
small detour with Dominic aboard. Near the same street where
DJ fell, Dominic and one of the crewmembers spread the flag
across the open door of the helicopter. They flew especially
low while Dominic held the flag.
“It was pretty cool, I was lucky to do it,” said Dominic.
“None of my brothers have been able to do something like
this for DJ.”
Dominic kept the flag with him, but sent home word about his
experience. The news was particularly important to the boys'
mother, Mary Thorrez-Wheeler.
“DJ's blood lies in the ground of that country,” wrote Mary
in an email, “and to know that one of my sons got to be
close to that hallowed ground it filled my heart.”
Mary hopes to visit the spot herself with the rest of DJ's
brothers, five of whom are also serving in the Army, she
“One day I'll walk the area with all my soldiers at my side
in honor of DJ's sacrifice,” she said.
Her sons will likely be called to serve in combat again,
however, before they can re-unite to pay their respects to
DJ in Iraq. Four of the five have already served combat
tours, and another will possibly deploy to Afghanistan next
year. Dominic will return to Fort Riley when his unit
completes its year-long tour here.
By Army Spc. Roland Hale|
Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division
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