When Kurt Wheeler opened his mail on Friday Sept. 8, he was surprised, not about his official notice to be deployed to Iraq, but that it hadn't come sooner.
"Obviously, many reservists have been called up, at this point, some two or three times," Wheeler said. "In some ways, it's miraculous that this hasn't happened sooner. I'm fortunate to have a very understanding commanding officer."
Called to duty as a field historian, Wheeler will serve a mandatory six months of active duty, collecting Marine Corps history as it happens.
"It's like being an imbedded journalist with much more of a long term focus," Wheeler said. "I'm under no pressure to twist anything or omit anything. We want people to tell it like it is."
Wheeler grew up on a farm outside Cazenovia attended Harvard on an ROTC scholarship. He served on active duty in the Marine Corps from 1989 to 1993, including deployment to Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After leaving active duty, he returned to Harvard for his master's degree in teaching. He has taught history and coached track and cross-country at Cazenovia High School since 1996. He's been in the Marine Reserve all along.
"I believe in what I'm doing. In the narrow sense of Iraq and in the broader sense of the world, this is the issue of our generation," Wheeler said. "If a history teacher had to be called up, there couldn't be a better situation. I'll come back a better teacher."
Wheeler will report to Marine headquarters at Quantico, Va. on Oct. 10. After a couple of weeks of pre-deployment training, he should be overseas before November.
"My commanding officer has been able to defer this until now. He used every other voluntary Marine. He was very open to my input as to what timing would have the least impact. It was decided that I would start the school year without the distraction of any announcement to get things started and going smooth. I'll be back in April to help the kids prepare for their AP exams."