A Bakersfield Marine has been awarded the Bronze Star for valor.
Although he doesn't consider himself a hero, Sgt. Anthony Wheeler showed nothing but heroism the day he saved another man while in a gunfight in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Wheeler grew up in Bakersfield and graduated from Stockdale High School.
While on his latest deployment, he was leading a team mentoring the Afghan National Police, when they started taking enemy fire. On June 19th, 2011, while waiting to be picked up on a road, Sgt. Wheeler's team had taken cover behind buildings. But, one spot was wide open to enemy fire, and as soon as his men walked into the area they were in the line of fire of machine guns and grenades.
"Enemy saw Marines and Afghan police out in the open and they decided to take a shot at us," explained Sgt. Wheeler.
One man was hit, left defenseless in the line of fire. It was the team's interpreter -- not a Marine or an American -- rather a local Afghan hired to translate.
But, that didn't stop Sgt. Wheeler from taking action. "Trying to fend off this enemy of I don't know how many, found out there was no comm. After that a few minutes, I ran out to go get the casualty to drag him back."
The Marine Corps says Sgt. Wheeler was taking fire the whole time, running out into the open with bullets flying all around him, while the enemy tried to take another one of our heroes who was saving an Afghan's life.
To Sgt. Wheeler, who downplayed his heroics, it was his duty, his job.
His father has mixed emotions about his son's valor.
"Its one of those things that you don't wish for your child to do, but you are proud of him," said Andrew Wheeler. "You would hope they would respond to someone in need, whether it's a child or another person who is hurt. You just don't expect it to happen in battle because you know the outcome is probably not going to be good."
But, Andrew Wheeler could not be more proud of his son.
The interpreter's life was saved because of Sgt. Wheeler's actions. Now, he is back in the states, trying to decide whether he will continue as a Marine or begin a career in law enforcement.