(Times Bulletin/Jim Langham)
(Times Bulletin/Jim Langham)

When Wisconsin native John Wiley enrolled in the U.S. Navy in 1991, it never crossed his mind that he would someday propose to his “wife to be” in front of a prison in Afghanistan. In fact, at the time, the name of, “Van Wert, Ohio,” meant very little to him.

It all started in 2002 when Wiley, through the U.S. Army, Attachment 327, MP BN, Arlington Heights, Ill., received active orders to deploy to Afghanistan. At the time, Wiley’s orders involved going to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin to prepare to deploy. At that point, Wiley’s attachment didn’t have a large enough personnel to go to overseas. In order to make it happen, the Attachment 428 MP Company was added to the project and the two groups would travel to Afghanistan together. Included in that second group was a young lady from Van Wert.

“We were stationed at Fort McCoy for six months,” said Wiley. “She (Colleen, his future bride) was in that other group. We first met each other there.”

Eventually, the attachments were deployed to Bagham Air Base in Afghanistan.

“We started to date in Fort McCoy, but I proposed to her in Afghanistan outside of a prison,” said Wiley. He said that the prison involved members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda who were under United States control.

In December of 2003, Colleen left and came back to Van Wert. Four months later, Wiley was discharged, but instead of settling in his native Wisconsin, he moved to Van Wert and they were married a month later in Van Wert.

Most recently, Wiley has been serving as a Van Wert municipal probation officer. Prior to that, he worked for several years at National Door and Trim.

“I like serving as a probation office because I enjoy working with different personnel on a daily basis,” said Wiley. “I love watching people make changes in their lives in a positive manner.”

Colleen Wiley currently serves as a deputy sheriff and is currently serving as the post commander of the Van Wert VFW. Ironically, Wiley serves as VFW District 2 Senior Vice- Commander. Wiley is also involved with the Disabled American Veterans due to knee injuries from walking on rocks in Afghanistan.

“This vet community is a family,” observed Wiley. “People who have not been in the military don’t understand the lifestyle. Nobody knows what all we see and do in the vet community; we are just like a family. We help each other in every way and financially.”

From 1991 until 2002, Wiley served in the U.S. Navy. From 2002-2004, He was in the U.S. Army. In the Navy, he served in the end of Desert Storm in, “Operational Watch.” In Afghanistan, he was a part of, “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Wiley said that his decision to become involved in the military when he graduated from high school was based primarily on the fact that his father had served in Vietnam.

“It meant so much to me. I miss it (military service) to this day,” said Wiley. “I am committed here to this community the same way that I was on the battlefield.”

Wiley noted that he feels especially honored because he will serve next year as the District 2 Commander for the State of Ohio. He will oversee 22 posts in the district.

“I am the first Afghanistan vet to hold that position,” said Wiley.