The solemn rituals celebrated Wheeler's service to his country - Army captain in Vietnam, driving force before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, secretary of the Securities and Exchange Commission, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Pentagon adviser on chemical warfare and cybersecurity.
All of it stood in stark contrast to the apparent manner in which Wheeler died - blunt force trauma sometime during the final days of 2010.
Wheeler's body was discovered on the morning of Dec. 31 as it tumbled out of a truck delivering trash to the Cherry Island landfill in Wilmington. Delaware authorities have ruled the New Castle resident's death a homicide, and suspect that Wheeler had been beaten.
Newark police are still piecing together his final days, and do not even know where Wheeler died.
On Dec. 28, Wheeler, 66, left his consulting job at the Mitre Corp. in Northern Virginia and took an Amtrak train to Wilmington.
Wheeler, who suffered from bipolar disorder and was described by friends as an emotional and complex person, appears to have become disoriented over the next few days.
On Dec. 29, he was spotted at a Wilmington parking garage, where surveillance video showed him limping, clutching a tassled loafer in his hand. On Dec. 30, video placed him near the Hotel DuPont at 8:30 p.m. At some point in the next 12 hours, Wheeler's body was deposited in a Dumpster in Newark, Del., about 15 miles away.
Wheeler's unusual and unresolved death, combined with his outstanding resumé, have continued to draw national media attention. He was the subject of a recent USA Today cover story; four news networks sent cameras to Arlington on Friday.
The Wheelers have offered a $25,000 reward for information about the slaying, but so far, officials said, no one has called the tip line with helpful clues.
Wheeler's widow, Katherine Klyce, declined to comment, but the family's lawyer, Colm F. Connolly of Morgan Lewis in Philadelphia, said: "They are grateful for the tremendous outpouring and sympathy they have received these last few months."
One of his West Point classmates who attended Friday's events, Art Schulcz, said afterward: "It's an honor to have known Jack. Our hope is that we can pass on what we learned from him to others. That's what Jack was about: He was a person who used his many talents to serve - not himself, but others."
At a private chapel service before the brief public ceremony, former Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne delivered a eulogy, lauding Wheeler as a compassionate and visionary soul. Wynne had hired his former classmate Wheeler as his eyes and ears, traveling with him during President George W. Bush's second term.
Wynne told of how Wheeler, tasked with helping the Air Force develop a cybersecurity command, visited recruiting stations without identifying himself. He'd ask the recruiters about opportunities in the Air Force for fighting cyber attacks.
"The recruiters gave him blank stares," Wynne said. Angry, Wheeler shot pointed e-mails to all the Pentagon brass, passionately explaining why this was a missed opportunity to acquire talented youth.
"I had surprised [armed forces] secretaries asking me, 'What is this? What is this?' and I said, 'It's thoroughness,' " Wynne recalled. "And that's what Jack embodied, thoroughness. . . . He was forever in pursuit of making the system better."
Contact staff writer John Shiffman at 301-320-6655 or email@example.com.
Inquirer staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea contributed to this article.