MULDROW (KFSM) -- Members of two Oklahoma communities are mourning the loss of one of their own, a military veteran whose death was announced on Friday (Oct. 23).
Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Okla., died Thursday in Kirkuk Province, Iraq.
Military staff said Wheeler died during a raid in Iraq from wounds received by enemy small-arms fire. The raid was to free 70 prisoners who were about to be executed by the Islamic terror group.
The city of Roland is flying its flags half staff to honor the local hero.
" There are no words to express the gratitude for the people who do what Josh did. One of our employees made the statement this morning that Josh didn't make it home but there are 70 rescued because of it," said Roland City Administrator Monty Lenington.
Wheeler played football at Muldrow, and his former middle school coach Randy Martin said he remembered Wheeler as a shy boy.
" He wasn't the biggest player in the world but he wasn't afraid of a challenge. He would step up when his number was called. When we are faced with tough situations we are going come out fighting and I think that is what josh did that put him in harms way. We are proud of him for accepting that challenge," Martin said.
Wheeler graduated in 1994 from Muldrow High School.
Muldrow High School principal Steve Page read a special message to students over the intercom and called for a moment of silence. Flags will fly at half staff for one week in Muldrow.