Matt Wheeler and Memorial Day
That’s all it said.
I’m not one to open mass emails, but I clicked it. It was an email from Robert, my father-in-law, and he sent it to the whole church.
That’s odd, I thought. Robert isn’t one to send unscheduled emails. And this one, he sent to thousands of people.
My eyes skimmed the screen.
I have a friend in the Marines named Matt Wheeler. ..
…Matt is a strong Christian and a really cool guy.
…He’s married to Emilee. I married them a couple of years ago.
Oh yes, I remembered, they talked about that wedding. It was hot, but she was beautiful. He wore his uniform. They got married at the same place as my friend Lisa.
The email continued:
…Matt is an EOD Tech (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) for the Marines.
… Last month, Matt and Emilee had their first child, Jackson. Matt shipped out a week later.
He’ll be back in 6 months.
Last week, an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) hit Matt’s vehicle. No one was hurt; praise the Lord. I asked Matt to please stay in the vehicle for the next 6 months. He said he would like to, but he has to walk most of the time, that’s his job: disarming IEDs.
…I tell you this story so you will pray for Matt by name.
…I tell you this story hoping that you will Facebook Matt and Emilee Wheeler and tell them you’re praying for them.
…I tell you this story so you will continue to pray for our troops who serve our country around the world.
I sat in silence. Was a little surprised, really. This wasn’t an email that was sent to our family and friends. This was sent to the whole church.
I couldn’t help but think from Emilee’s perspective.
I bet she is so comforted to know thousands of people are praying for her husband. I bet she feels covered – bathed in prayer and protection.
My mind kept going down that road. I began to imagine if Chris had to go to war just a week after Daniel was born. And for just a moment, I caught a glimpse of what Emilee must have lived with for years.
What if he doesn’t get to come home?
After talking to Emilee, I realized the stress that weighed on her – the worry that plagued her – was carried strongly, with confidence. She had been with Matt through three of his four deployments. She knew the drill. She knew how to be a soldier’s wife.
But each time she returned from errands, her eyes still shot ahead to check their driveway for a black government car.
And each time her driveway was clear, she breathed deeply in relief.
Her husband was still alive.
After that email, thousands of people in San Antonio and across the world prayed for Matt. After Robert told the remaining congregation in person and through online services, thousands more.
Emilee was in shock. Night after night, for three deployments, she prayed for this man she loved.
Now thousands joined her.
A string of days did not pass without somebody stopping her in public to tell her they pray for Matt.
This man she loved. This man she married. This man her son would call daddy. This man who made his living disarming bombs. This man who walked daily among literal land mines. This man who she feared might one day be gone…
…was covered in prayer.
And one day, just three weeks after Matt’s name was sent out in prayer request, he turned around to help a Corp doctor – the very man who saved lives when bombs exploded – out of a canal. As Matt turned and stepped, an IED went off – right under his foot.
It was 6:30 a.m. on June 18th as Emilee captured baby Jackson cooing into her phone’s video camera. Emilee is a pro at documenting her life for Matt’s care packages.
Right in the middle, the video stopped recording.
Strange, she thought.
A call started coming through. It was Matt!
“Hey, Babe!” she said in her always-cheerful voice.
“I have some news,” he said. His voice caring, but sober.
“Okaaaaay,” Emilee prompted, hesitantly.
“I’m coming home.”
Her heart sank. Her hands shook.
There is only one reason soldiers come home.
He explained he was ok, lost no limbs – but his heel bone was shattered. He’d be coming home for surgery.
He couldn’t talk long, but would be sent to another hospital, where he would try to call again.
A few days later, Matt sat in his hospital room in Germany.
“Matt Wheeler?” the nurse asked.
I recognized your name. I go to Community Bible Church when I’m home. I got Robert’s email. I’ve been praying for you.
From Germany, Matt flew to San Diego – where they now wait for the swelling to go down to perform surgery.
Today, Matt not only gets to celebrate his country’s freedom on American soil,
he gets to see his wife
hold his son
be reminded of peace.
And yesterday, he got to celebrate his wedding anniversary.
I cannot believe in coincidence: That the timing of Robert’s email was accidental. He had been deployed four times with no single injury. Why now?
I cannot believe in chaos: When God’s people were actively praying, the bomb Matt stepped on malfunctioned, sending only 2 of the 10 pounds off in explosion.
Yes, the bomb that would have killed him was faulty.
I cannot believe in luck.
And I’ll warn you now, if you greet Emilee with mentions of “luck,” she’ll smile with true Southern politeness, but lock you with her big, brown eyes and let you know,
‘I prayed every day that the spirit of the Lord would surround him and protect him with every step he took. I know my prayers were answered. It was ^Him who protected my husband, not luck.
Where do they go from here?
“Well, that remains to be unseen,” Emilee said. “We expect he will be medically retired. Regardless, we asked God before this deployment to reveal to us His plans for our future. One of the options was to remain in the USMC and continue to do EOD. God has made it clear that Matt’s time doing that is over and we are prepared to move on to different things. Matt has explored the option of being an EOD instructor, or an inactive reservist and working with other Wounded Warriors and their families. We have been so blessed with all the organizations that take care of the wounded and their families- Wounded Warrior Project, Semper Fi Fund, etc. and Matt would really love to be able to ‘pay it forward’ and also reach out to other wounded and their families.”
If you prayed with us for Matt, please take a minute to thank the Lord for his evident answer.
And if you would please keep praying, this is what they have requested:
You know, when you go through something like this, its not all physical injuries. As you can imagine, Matthew has seen too much throughout his 4 deployments. Pray not only for his physical healing, but also that the Lord would take over His mind and comfort him. Sleeping is still difficult and nightmares are not uncommon.
Guidance that the Lord would use this event to further His kingdom and guide us as to what Matt’s next occupation should be. Pray for the guys left over there that they would be protected as well and that God would guide their hands and feet as they continue to serve our country defusing bombs.
For healing, strength, patience, and a reminded attitude of gratitude.
For the family of GySgt. Pate. He was a bomb tech who Matt worked with. This past Sunday, he was killed while answering a call to diffuse a bomb. His wife and two children now have to learn how to live life without their husband and daddy.