January 4, 2011 by staff
John Wheeler, (AP) – A military expert who has served three Republican presidents and helped get the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built in dedication to those who fought in that war was found dead in a landfill, and authorities are trying to reconstruct, when he was the last seen alive. The body of John Wheeler III, 66, was discovered Friday when a garbage truck emptied its contents to the Cherry Island landfill in Wilmington. The garbage truck had collected about 10 commercial waste containers in Newark, several miles from the Wheeler home in historic New Castle, but police said they are not sure of his body containing course.
His friends said they exchanged e-mails with Wheeler – who had been missing – around Christmas. Wheeler was also scheduled to make an Amtrak train between Washington and Wilmington on Dec. 28, but it is unclear if he ever made the trip, said that investigators, who scored Wheeler’s death was a homicide.
Family members may not have reported him missing because they were out of town, Newark police spokesman Lt. Mark Farrall said.
Efforts by The Associated Press to contact his wife, Katherine Klyce, were unsuccessful, but his family released a statement by the police.
“As you understand, it’s a tragic moment for the family. We mourn our losses. Please understand that the family has no comment at this time. We hope that all worlds will respect the privacy of the family. ”
Wheeler has followed the footsteps of his father’s decorated and attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating in 1966, in the midst of the Vietnam War, he served five years in the military, including as a personnel officer at the Pentagon, and left the army in 1971.
Years later, Wheeler, as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon during the administration of George W. Bush, helped develop the Air Force Cyber Command. A citation for his service in 2008 said Wheeler acknowledged that the military needed to fight against the increasing vulnerability of weapon systems the United States to cyber intrusions, according to his biography.
Longtime friend and colleague Richard graduated from West Point Radez said in an e-mail the day after Christmas, Wheeler wrote that he believed the nation was not adequately prepared for cyber warfare.
“It’s something that had preoccupied the past two years,” said Radez.
Wheeler home in New Castle on Monday night was dark and nobody answered the door. Yellow police tape testimony was stretched across two wooden chairs in the kitchen, where several wooden floorboards were missing.
According to The News Journal of Wilmington, Ron Roark, who lived next to Wheeler for seven months, said Monday that he had met only once Wheeler and rarely seen. But for four days around Christmas, he said he and his family heard a loud TV in the house of Wheeler that was constantly, but nobody seems to be home.
“It was so loud we could hear through the walls, and we found it strange,” Roark told the newspaper.
While the police searched the house, it was not considered a crime scene, Farrall said.
“We do not have a crime scene at this stage,” said Farrall.
In New York, a doorman at the building where Wheeler and Klyce shared a condominium said he had not seen in two weeks and Klyce a package she had been at the front desk for days. He said that two detectives were at the condo in the Harlem section of the city.
New York police said they could not immediately confirm they were involved in the investigation. Telephone messages left for Klyce at New Castle were not immediately returned.
Wheeler spent much of his career post-Army in Washington, DC for eight years from 1978 to 1986; he was Special Advisor to the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
During these years he also established the Leadership Program of Vietnam veterans to President Ronald Reagan and was chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund that helped get the wall built. It is one of the most popular monuments in Washington, DC
Founder and president of the Fund in January Scruggs said Wheeler is dedicated to ensuring that service members were treated with respect.
“I know how passionate he was to pay tribute to all those who serve their nation, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Scruggs said in a statement.
In an advance for the book, “Reflections on the Wall: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” Wheeler wrote that the beauty of wall pictures in the book comes from the quality reflective black granite.
“Before building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, those of us working on the project knew the wall would be bright, reflective,” he writes. “But nobody had anticipated the high quality mirror, true and expansive wall. The polished black granite surface reflects the blue sky, green trees, the Washington Monument, the dome of the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and the expressive faces of visitors who approach the wall. ”
James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, said he had known Wheeler since 1980, and wrote on the magazine’s website that Wheeler has spent much of his life trying to deal with “what called ’40-year open wound “of Vietnam soldiers of the time were dismissed by the company that sent them to war.”
Wheeler also spent some time self-employment, and recently was a consultant to the Mitre Corporation, based in a non-profit Bedford, Mass., and McLean, Va., which operates research centers funded by the federal and development.
Wheeler military career included serving in the office of Secretary of Defense and writing a textbook on the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons. He recommended that the United States will not use biological weapons. Wheeler earned a master’s degree at Harvard Business School and a law degree from Yale, according to his biography.
It was also the second president and CEO of Mothers against Drunk Driving.
“It just was not the kind of person who fined themselves in a landfill,” said Bayard Marin, a lawyer representing Wheeler and Klyce in a dispute with a couple wishing to build a house near theirs in the historic district.
“It was a very aggressive kind of guy, but still sort of win the good graces and had a good sense of humor,” says Marino.
Fallows told the Associated Press that the e-mail at Christmas, Wheeler was also concerned about getting restored ROTC programs at prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford. Schools programs declined in the wake of Vietnam.
Robert Meadus, 85, who lives near Wheeler’s New Castle home, described the death as “very strange”.
“The more you think about it, it becomes increasingly unlikely. … Perry Mason is one thing for sure.”
Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Maryland, and Cristian Salazar in New York contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2011 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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