A Senseless Tragedy

John P. “Jack” Wheeler III, airpower advocate and a driving force behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, has died. Wheeler’s body was found Dec. 31 in a landfill in Wilmington, Del. Police have ruled his death a homicide, reports Wilmington’s News Journal. He was 66. Air Force Association President Mike Dunn called Wheeler’s death “a tragic loss.” Wheeler, he added, was “a great friend of the Air Force and AFA.” From 2005 to 2008, Wheeler served as special assistant to then-Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne. “He was a patriot of the first order,” Wynne told the Daily Report Monday, describing the death as “a senseless tragedy.” Wynne continued, “Though he was Army through and through, the Air Force has lost a phenomenal spokesperson for airpower.” A 1966 West Point graduate, Wheeler served in Vietnam. After leaving the Army in 1971, he went on to lead various governmental and charitable programs and business ventures. For President Reagan, he created the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program; for President George H.W. Bush, he established the Earth Conservation Corps. Wheeler was the first chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, playing a leading role in raising the funds to bring the memorial to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. He earned advanced degrees in business and law from Harvard and Yale, respectively. He helped launch Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and was engaged in building schools in Vietnam and providing cochlear implants to hearing-impaired children. Most recently, he worked as a defense consultant. (Wheeler biography) (VVMF statement) (See also ABC News report and Associated Press report)