MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
As a teenager working on farms and in construction in his hometown of Urbana, Ohio, Capt. Chase B. Wheeler never thought he would one day be a Marine combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
His blue-collar work ethic gave him the drive to work hard, and after high school, Wheeler earned a degree in construction management and mining. It was while playing football for Morehead State University that Wheeler decided he wanted to fight for the United States.
“I didn’t want to be 55 saying, ‘I wish I would have done this.’ It was my obligation to fight for my country because there was a fight to be had,” said Wheeler, executive officer, Company C, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
The patriotism that radiated from his words was deep-rooted in Wheeler’s family tree. His father served as an Army staff sergeant, his grandfather is a World War II veteran and his great grandfather fought in the Spanish-American War. When Wheeler said it was his duty, one could almost say it was his destiny too.
“Being around veterans – it was kind of set I would serve in some sort,” said Wheeler. Wheeler explained he wanted to fight in the war before it was over and knew joining the Marine Corps was the quickest way to do so.
As an officer in Afghanistan, Wheeler’s duties were tremendous. He led Marines on numerous missions to clear routes of improvised explosive devices and construct combat outposts. While on patrol during his first deployment Wheeler was struck by a nearly 120-pound IED. The blast wounded and knocked him out, but Wheeler survived.
“I’m fortunate to be alive,” said Wheeler. “Makes you realize the importance in life – family and friends.”
Despite the near-death experience, Wheeler’s fighting spirit was untarnished. In February of 2011, Wheeler deployed again with 2nd CEB.
Fellow officer Capt. John E. Shubeck, company commander, Company C, 2nd CEB, noticed Wheeler’s courage during one mission in particular.
“We were in combat during the whole operation,” said Shubeck. “Multiple times he stood out from the side of a vehicle with binoculars to draw fire behind tree lines and determine where the fire was coming from. It was successful. We were able to bring air on station and break up the enemy assault.”
On Oct. 3, Wheeler’s father and fellow Marines from Afghanistan were present when he was awarded the Purple Heart and promoted to the rank of captain.
“I don’t think words can express how proud my wife and I are of him,” said Wheeler’s father. “Not just for the Purple Heart, but for his service to the Marines and his country.”