- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MULDROW, Okla. (AP) - The first American soldier to die in combat against the Islamic State group in Iraq was remembered Tuesday during a memorial service as a man who was passionate about his wife, children, church and making others happy.

The service was held at Trinity United Methodist Church in Muldrow for U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, 39, who lived in nearby Roland and graduated Muldrow High School in 1994 before joining the Army a year later, the Tulsa World reported (https://bit.ly/1T17QTN ).

“I was so mad at him when he went to the service, but I want to take it back because good Lord, look what he’s done,” Zach Wheeler, his brother, said during the service. “He’s one of the best soldiers in the world.”

Joshua Wheeler joined the Army as an infantryman in 1995 and completed his initial training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He had been assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, since 2004.

He was killed Oct. 22 when he and dozens of U.S. special operations troops and Iraqi forces raided a compound near the city of Kirkuk, freeing approximately 70 Iraqi prisoners from captivity.

“He made it through so many (tours). We just thought he was invincible,” Joshua Wheeler’s aunt, Linda Cole, said.

Wheeler deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq 14 times and received 11 bronze stars during his career, and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star.

A private burial was held Nov. 18 at Arlington National Cemetery following a memorial service in North Carolina, where Wheeler lived with his family before he died. He is survived by his wife and four children.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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