Staff Sergeant Matthew L. Wheeler was born on September 26, 1985 in Abilene, TX. He grew up like most boys in that part of the country hunting and fishing. When he reached 18, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to Combat Training School in Camp Pendleton, CA. After that, PFC Wheeler reported to Field Radio Operator School and on to duty at the 2d Tank Battalion at Camp Lejeune, NC. “When I got old enough to join the Marines, the only thing I really had time for was fishing anymore.” Matt says. “I’d go deep sea fishing off the coast of North Carolina and did some pier fishing as well. Hunting went on the back burner.”
In September of ‘05, Lance Corporal Wheeler deployed to Iraq in support of OIF with Delta Company, 2d Tank Battalion. While there, he became a combat replacement as the loader on an M2A1 Abrams Battle Tank. He was also promoted to the rank of Corporal before coming back to the States in May of 2006.
In December of that same year, Matt left for a second tour in support of OIF. This time, his duties required support of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams, Marine Transition Training Teams, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and Lima 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. Corporal Wheeler attained the rank during this 13-month deployment and once again shipped back to the U.S. in January of ‘08.
In January of 2009, Matt graduated NAVSCOLEOD and reported for duty at Marine Wing Support Squadron-372, Camp Pendleton, CA. He deployed to Afghanistan for a 3rd tour in support of OEF in September, taking part in a named operation in the City of Marjah. After 70 days of not showering and not being able to talk to his wife, Sergeant Wheeler participated in capturing the city and defeating 50 Improvised Explosive Devices.
Sergeant Wheeler came home to his wife Emilee in April 2010. For the next year, he provided critical EOD support to the U.S. Secret Service in protecting the President and First Lady. In 2011, he once again deployed to Afghanistan in support of OEF and was attached to 2d EOD Company from Camp Lejeune, NC. This was five days after his first son, Jackson, was born.
In Afghanistan Matt was promoted to team leader in the most dangerous and hazardous place in all of Helmand Province. He successfully defeated 30 IEDs before his deployment abruptly ended on day. While on patrol in Sangin District, Matt stepped on an IED and the next thing he knew he was being evacked by helicopter to Camp Leatherneck. He was then transported to Naval Medical Center in San Diego for surgery and rehabilitation.
“After I was wounded, I was able to get more heavily involved into hunting when I met a man named Billy Hodges,” Matt said gratefully. “Billy started a group that takes out wounded warriors and I was fortunate enough to be taken on several trips to hunt for whitetail in Texas where I had some great opportunities.”
Matt admits that the most memorable one was being able to take a 201 1/4” whitetail at the Paraiso Escondido Ranch in Cisco, TX. A very amazing couple, Ted and Judy Hogan, donated the hunt to Matt at their ranch and Ted gave him the green light to shoot any buck he wanted. He couldn’t believe that. The ranch manager and Matt’s guide, Ryan Railsback, had already picked out the one he wanted to hunt for. He said they’d been calling this buck Hightower and that he was a very elusive deer. They’d been hunting him for the last three years but never could lay the crosshairs on him. Well… near the end of Matt’s hunt, Hightower walked out of the brush in front of guide and wide-eyed hunter and Matt was able to take him. He was truly a magnificent buck. His G2’s were 14” long!
The Wheeler family owns a ranch just south of Ozona, TX, where Matt is able to pass on the tradition of hunting deer, hogs, coyotes, and predatory cats. His father-in-law, Bert Neville, and he go fishing down in Port O’connor often and along as much of the Texas coast as they can. They share a flats boat that they take into skinny water fishing for redfish.
“Bert and I were fishing with a good friend one time in deep south Texas along the coast. I remember one particular day that we went out and it was extremely windy. We were having a hard time of it and just generally not having a good time. The wind completely died around noon which gave us about two hours of no wind and glassy water. We instantly started seeing redfish tailing all the way to the horizon. Jumping out of the boat, we stalked and hunted those fish until the wind picked back up. During the meantime of calm, I landed one nice 28” red! It was amazing.”
SSgt Wheeler retired from the military in October of 2012. He is currently attending college at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. He is studying Public Administration in order to be more involved with American politics one day.
Matt is married to Emilee Wheeler and they have two childeren together, Jackson and Maycee. Emilee runs her own small business doing stationary and invitations. Jackson is the oldest of the two children at three and Maycee is two.
SSgt Wheeler’s personal decorations include: Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good conduct medal with 1 star attachment, National Defense Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Iraq campaign medal with 3 star attachments, Afghanistan Campaign medal with 2 star attachments, Global War on Terrorism medal, Unit Global War on Terrorism medal, Overseas service medal with 3 star attachments, and ISAF NATO Medal with 1 star attachment.