In Memory Of Our Friend Jack Wheeler


By Robbin Laird

In Memory of John P. Wheeler III
John Wheeler will be remembered as a man of honor and commitment.
Among his numerous achievements, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for which he fought stands out.
 Credit photo:

01/04/2011 – It is my sad duty to our readers to announce that one of the founding members of Second Line of Defense has been tragically removed from our family.

When I was preparing to return from Europe, I was sent late in the day an email from a close friend indicating that Jack had been murdered late last week.

To say the least, I was stunned.  My first thoughts were of his family and the heavy burden they must pay.

The second was for the legion of friends and colleagues of such a talented and powerful man.  In a world littered with needless tragedies and sufferings, why did we need yet another one?

Over the next few hours, hundreds of emails networked across my desktop, as Jack would expect, as a cyber person.

Indeed, one did not start a day without an email from Jack on one of his core passions and interests. 

It is only fitting that my nickname for Jack was the “bulldog.” 

Any of his friends will know that the name fits.

  Jack was, and the verb is sticking in my throat, a passionate man of high intelligence. 

When Jack focused on an issue, he was like a laser beam and bulldozer all in one. 

And his efforts were often rewarded with the creation of something the public could see, starting with the Vietnam Memorial.

He was dogged in pursuit of truth and justice for those core values, which he held dearly. 

Everything he did was for the warfighter and their families. 

Whether the defense of West Point, the exposure of universities whose moral duplicity with regard to the denigration of ROTC on their campuses, or the short-sided decision to terminate the F-22, Jack had his issues and he pursued them.

Jack was a rarity in this world: a man of passion, intelligence, caring and consideration for others. 

My 14-year-old daughter Chloe, recalled Jack as “the kind man who always gave us those great chocolates for Christmas.” And then she cried. 

This is something I am finding it difficult to do. 

Not because I do not love Jack, but I cannot bring myself to put him into the realm of remembering a great man. 

That is why I am writing this note. 

To confront the reality of a loss so great is simply beyond me at the moment.

I am including a personal picture of Jack in this column taken during a visit to Normandy. 

The 21st Secretary of the US Air Force and his team had finished a visit to Paris to make a speech and to conduct meetings. 

Jack flew over on the Secretary’s plane and was sick much of the trip. 

Typical of Jack, he was more concerned that he might make people sick, than with himself.

A friend of mine and a colleague who are specialists on the Normandy invasion conducted the visit to Normandy.

The enormity of the Normandy experience is a humbling one. 

I remember watching Jack with a tear in his eye as he looked at the military cemeteries and at Utah beach. 

In many ways, that moment is how I will always remember Jack, himself always remembering the contribution of Americans to the fight for freedom and justice. 

And he was a man who believed in freedom and justice in a world which too often is simply too cynical. 

Values matter; caring matters; and Jack always reminded us of that.

I raise my sword in honor of you Jack.

I just cannot believe that I won’t get an email from you commenting on my column.