Delaware police are reporting the murder of 66-year-old John P. Wheeler III, a West Point graduate who served with distinction in Vietnam, then went on to important positions in both Bush administrations. He was also instrumental in the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. His most recent crusade was ending the ban on ROTC programs at elite universities.
Delaware Online reports that Wheeler’s body was found on New Year’s Eve at the Cherry Island Landfill, east of Wilmington. Police believe his body was placed in a disposal bin somewhere in Newark, Delware, and was then unwittingly conveyed to the landfill by truck. The authorities have established he took an Amtrak train from Washington D.C., where he worked, to Wilmington last Tuesday, but have not yet been able to trace his movements since he got off the train. Wheeler had a home in New Castle, about six miles south of the landfill where he was found.
A Wilmington attorney who worked with Wheeler said, “This is just not the kind of guy who gets murdered. This is not the kind of guy you find in a landfill.” The authorities have not yet released any public speculation concerning the motive for the murder, or possible suspects. Delware Online reports that a crime scene unit has been deployed at Wheeler’s New Castle home.
James Fallows of The Atlantic, an old friend of Wheeler’s, says he described the shabby treatment of his fellow Vietnam vets as “a forty year open wound.” He did a lot to heal that wound, during a life filled with honorable service and achievement. Hopefully the police will soon discover who ended it, and why.