Category Archives: Heroes

Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler: Another Hero Dies in Action

Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler

Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, who died Thursday in Iraq, was the the first American in four years to die there in combat. He was 39.

Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler was a hero.

A member of Delta Force, the Army equivalent of Navy SEAL teams, he accompanied a group of Kurdish commandos on a helicopter raid to rescue about 70 hostages from being murdered by Islamic State militants. He and the other Americans who accompanied the mission were not supposed to join in the action, but he couldn’t stand by and watch the mission fail.

A former Delta Force officer who had commanded Sergeant Wheeler in Iraq and had been briefed on the mission said that the Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, tried to blast a hole in the compound’s outer wall, but could not. Sergeant Wheeler and another American, part of a team of 10 to 20 Delta Force operators who were present, ran up to the wall, breached it with explosives, and were the first ones through the hole.

“When you blow a hole in a compound wall, all the enemy fire gets directed toward that hole, and that is where he was,” [the former Delta Force officer said.]

He grew up in a “thinly populated, economically struggling patch of eastern Oklahoma” and had a difficult childhood with few options. One was to join the Army, and he took it. “In that area, if you didn’t go to college, you basically had a choice of the oil fields or the military,” said his uncle, Jack Shamblin. “The Army really suited him; he always had such robust energy and he always wanted to help people, and he felt he was doing that.” Obviously, he was right.

His mother had been married twice; both times, to alcoholic, abusive men. As the oldest child in this dysfunctional family, Wheeler had always made sure his younger siblings were clothed and fed. This sense of responsibility carried over into adulthood and served him well, leading to his success as “a highly decorated combat veteran in the elite and secretive Delta Force.”

Too many heroes die in action, as did Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler. This is a terrible tragedy. But he helped save the lives of about 70 ISIS prisoners, by performing the extremely dangerous work he had been trained to do.

We need more heroes like Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, people willing and able to lay down their lives (if necessary) for their fellow humans. But, when possible, we desperately need to find ways to keep them alive. We need all the genuine heroes we can get, and we don’t need them dead.

There was another American scaling that wall with him, but we are not told his name. This other man was equally a hero. Wheeler was not a hero because he died; rather, they were both heroes because they went “above and beyond the call of duty” to save the lives of others.

One lived and one died. They were both heroes in equal measure.


Sophia Tabors: 10-year-old Science Fair Hero

Sophia TaborsWhen smart kids speak, pay attention. Sophia Tabors’ mother did.

Ten-year-old Sophia Tabors saw her grandpa drop a bag of apples and asked him if he was OK. He said something, but she couldn’t understand it. Then she noticed one side of his face was sagging, and she knew. Her grandpa was having a stroke!

How did this fourth-grade girl know what was happening to her grandpa?

“My other grandpa had a stroke and during that stroke I’m like, ‘Well it’d be interesting to find out why strokes happen and what causes them,’” she said. So she did. Sophia learned all she could about strokes and turned what she learned into a prize-winning science fair project. Even though one teacher told her this wasn’t a good subject for a science fair, she took a second-place ribbon anyway.

It was only two months later that she was at the grocery store with her mother and her other grandpa, and she realized this grandfather was also having a stroke. “He dropped a bag of apples,” she said. “He was staring at it and I was trying to ask him if he was okay. He was saying something, but I didn’t get it and his face was droopy on one side…I told my mom what was happening and she called 911.”

Her grandfather’s doctor credits her with saving his life, as well as physical abilities. “I have no doubt she saved a lot of his functions and probably his life too,” Dr. Alshekhlee said.

Sophia’s grandpa is recovering well now, largely because she was prepared and alert.

Well done, Sophia. Very well done indeed. We are all proud of you. The report says you love reading and learning and science. I hope you’ll keep on reading and learning all you can. People say “curiosity killed the cat,” but that’s nonsense. Curiosity is good. Very few things are as satisfying as learning, and you never know when something you’ve learned will save somebody’s life again. Or be useful in some other way.

You referred to yourself as a bookworm. This is great! Be sure to finish your education, but also learn all you can on your own. Good books, science magazines, and the internet make this easier than it has ever been before.

Since you’re interested, think about studying some branch of science.  You’d make a great scientist!



Wild Dolphin Asks Divers for Help

It was entangled in fishing line and had a hook embedded in its pectoral fin. It was so entangled in fishing line that it couldn’t move or swim properly. (I say “it” because I have no idea whether this dolphin was male or female.) It was in trouble and needed help.

If this is real — and it looks real to me — a wild dolphin in trouble seems to actually ask a human diver for help. Thankfully, this particular diver was both able and willing to provide that help.

The dolphin seems to know humans are potentially dangerous, but also that we might be able to help it. It ignores the manta rays, which have neither the intelligence to know it is in trouble nor (probably) the compassion to care. It seems to come in slowly toward the man. Cautiously. But it has little choice, because it will probably die without help.

It first swims slowly past the diver, twisting and turning as if to show the man its predicament. Then it comes back and stays as long as possible while the man works to remove the entangling fishing line — until it has to return to the surface for air.

Even then, it returns for more help and lets the diver poke and prod its body as he removes more fishing line and frees its range of motion. But eventually the dolphin swims away with the hook still in its flesh.

Why did it swim away before the rescue was complete? I have no idea. Maybe removing the fish-hook hurt too much. Maybe it could no longer control its fear of the icky humans. Figuring out why humans do what we do is difficult enough; reading the mind of a cetacean is even riskier.

Regardless, it seems to me this is one more in a long line of incidents showing how intelligent and sentient some non-human animals are.

Gunman Stopped by Hero Student with Pepper Spray

Jon Meis, hero of the shooting yesterday at Seattle Pacific University
Jon Meis, hero of the shooting yesterday at Seattle Pacific University

It happened yesterday, June 5, 2014, about 3:30 pm Pacific time, at Seattle Pacific University. According to an article by the Fox News Staff,

“A hero stepped forward and saved lives during the Seattle Pacific University shooting Thursday afternoon.

“The hero who stepped forward and tackled the 26-year-old shooting suspect Aaron Ybarra is being identified as Jon Meis, a student and building monitor at SPU.”

Read more:

The article continues,

“According to Seattle police, Ybarra walked into Otto Miller Hall with a shotgun and a handgun, confronted at least three people and opened fire around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. When Ybarra stopped to reload his weapons, 22-year-old Meis, who was sitting at a desk in the lobby, sprayed the suspect with pepper spray he often carries. When the suspect was incapacitated, Meis rushed Ybarra and put him in a chokehold to subdue him.”

After he tackled the gunman, other students and faculty members helped him subdue and hold him until police arrived.

One student died in the shooting and two others were injured. Police believe the killer intended to kill many more, and that Meis s

Meis’ quick thinking and action limited the shooting to the lobby, possibly saving many of the students and faculty in the rest of the building.

Far too often heroes die while performing their heroism. Fortunately, Meis survived without physical injury. This is great! We need our heroes alive.