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Spc. Christofer Wheeler, 19, died in a traffic accident May 8, 2022, in Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Spc. Christofer Wheeler, 19, died in a traffic accident May 8, 2022, in Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. (Photo provided by Joint Base Lewis-McChord)

A 19-year-old soldier assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., died early Sunday in an off-base traffic accident, base officials said.

Spc. Christofer A. Wheeler, who is from South Carolina, was a culinary specialist and paratrooper assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at the Army base. The two-vehicle accident occurred at about 1:30 a.m. at the intersection of South Mildred and South 19th Streets, according to the Tacoma Police Department. Wheeler attempted to pass a car at a high rate of speed as it was turning left and struck the vehicle, police said.

The other driver survived with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police. Wheeler was pronounced dead at the scene by medics from the Tacoma Fire Department.

“Spc. Wheeler was a hard-working soldier who brought joy and positivity into the lives of the soldiers he worked with,” said Col. Ryan Ehrler, commander of 1st Special Forces Group. “We mourn the loss of our brother and will always be grateful for his service to our nation. Our deepest condolences go out to Spc. Wheeler’s family.”

The soldier was born June 27, 2002, in Columbia, S.C., according to JBLM. He attended Ridge View High School, graduating in 2020. While there, he competed in several sports including track, basketball, football and wrestling.

Wheeler enlisted in the Army on June 26, 2020, as a culinary specialist and attended basic training about two months later. After culinary training, he attended Airborne School in May 2021, qualifying on the T-11 parachute and earning the title of “paratrooper,” according to the base.

JBLM was his first duty station, and he worked at the group’s dining facility.

Wheeler’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Parachutist Badge, according to JBLM.

He is survived by his mother Crystal Chayvon Clay, his sister Marketta Guitroz, and his grandmother Sylvia Mickens.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.
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