John Heeg, a social studies teacher at Robert Frost, researched the life and service of Sgt. Neil Evans Wheeler of Oswego, who died in combat in World War I, as part of National History Day’s Memorializing the Fallen program, sponsored by the World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Foundation.

Heeg, currently deployed in Kuwait, was one of only 17 teacher applicants nationwide who was accepted into the Memorializing the Fallen program, in which he was tasked with selecting and researching a “Silent Hero,” a WWI service member who never returned home. Last June, he spent 12 days in Europe, conducting research and visiting cemeteries, battle sites and monuments.

“Since I was a hospital corpsman for the Marines, I selected Sgt. Wheeler, who was killed at the Battle of Belleau Wood,” Heeg said. “What caught my attention about this Marine is that he was killed on June 17, 1918.  June 17 happens to be my birthday and my son’s. Sgt. Wheeler and I also enlisted in the military at the same age, 26.”

Heeg’s eulogy and profile of Sgt. Wheeler was published at A lesson plan inspired by the Silent Hero research was featured on the WWI page of National History Day’s website and in the upcoming publication “Great War, Flawed Peace, and the Lasting Legacy of World War I.”