Joe Kneeler is a married, 39 year-old father of four. He is a hero. Upon hearing what he believed to be gunshots, he herded his fellow officeworkers into an interior room and dialed 911.

Josh Wheeler was a married, 39 year-old father of four. He is a hero. Disregarding the plan for Americans to remain at the helicopters, Josh led his Delta Force troops in support of a Kurdish assault on an ISIS prison compound.

70 prisoners were to be executed after the morning prayer, so the peshmerga (which the Americans had been advising) charged across the trench-graves toward the perimeter wall. Their weapons failed to breech the wall and the intensity of insurgent fire had stalled the advance.

Josh understood that the mission would not go into the record book as a tie – it would be a success or a failure. If the peshmerga could not advance, then they would retreat. Among many other qualifications, Josh was an explosives expert. He ran forward and set explosives to create a perfect 8-foot diameter hole in the prison wall.

Four months ago, President Obama sent an additional 450 Americans to Iraq to “train, advise and assist,” bringing the total to 3550 such advisers. He has repeatedly said that Americans will not be involved in direct combat operations. Was this mission creep?

Not if you asked Josh. Delta Force was sent to Iraq to help the peshmerga push ISIS back. He knew that the way you train is by demonstration, the way you lead is by example and the way of teamwork is individual sacrifice. So after he blew a hole in the wall, he was the first one through it.

That is where Josh was mortally wounded.  But 16 other Delta Force troops, 24 peshmerga troops (4 wounded), along with 70 of the freed prisoners and 6 captured insurgents were extracted. And captured electronic devices will provide a wealth of intelligence.

Joe Kneeler and Josh Wheeler are both heroes. Joe said he “really worked up a sweat” when he sprang into action. He said he was thinking about his two sons and two daughters when he was barricading the break room door. He said he was “as glad as anyone” when it was determined that the sounds came from a nearby construction site.

Josh blasted a hole in a wall and ran through it into concentrated gunfire. He did it to rescue non-American Muslims facing imminent execution by other Muslims. He leaves four sons.


Joshua L. Wheeler:

1976 – 1994     Youth, Roland, Oklahoma.

1995 – 1996     Infantryman, 24th Infantry Regiment

1997 – 2003     Ranger, 75th Ranger Regiment, 3 deployments

2004 – 2015     Operator, USASOC, 11 deployments

Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star

(eleven times, including four with valor device)

wheelerfiles/Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart

wheelerfiles/Defense Meritorious Service ribbon.svg Defense Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal

Air Medal ribbon.svg Air Medal

Joint Service Commendation ribbon.svg Joint Service Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Army Commendation Medal

(seven times)

Us jointservachiev rib.svg Joint Service Achievement Medal

Army Achievement Medal ribbon.svg Army Achievement Medal

(eight times)

Army Good Conduct ribbon.svg Army Good Conduct Medal

(six times)

National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal

Afghanistan Campaign ribbon.svg Afghanistan Campaign Medal

Iraq Campaign ribbon.svg Iraq Campaign Medal

Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

NCO Professional Development Ribbon.svg Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon

(three times)

Army Service Ribbon.svg Army Service Ribbon

Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg Presidential Unit Citation

National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg Army Valorous Unit Award

(two times)

Ranger Tab.svg Ranger tab

Combat Infantry Badge.svg Combat Infantryman Badge

US Army Airborne senior parachutist badge.gif Senior Parachutist Badge

Master Free Fall Parachutist Badge

ArmyQualExpert.JPG Expert Badge with Rifle Component Bar

US Army Special Operations Command SSI.svg USASOC CSIB