US Army Cpl Homer J. Wheaton, a student at Syracuse University from 1902-1904 (Onondagan Honor Roll 1919-1920), was credited as the first person from the city of Syracuse to die in World War I. Cpl Wheaton attended the Manlius Military Academy, where he showed a natural aptitude for soldiering. He continued his education at Syracuse University. Cpl Wheaton served in the border conflicts between Mexico and the United States before reporting overseas in 1917. In France, he served with Unit G of the 101st Infantry.
In February 1918, Cpl Wheaton was killed trying to save his fellow soldiers after a live grenade was accidentally dropped during ammunition distribution in the midst of a heavy bombardment. Wheaton acted immediately, trying to retrieve the grenade and throw it away from the troops. Unfortunately, the grenade exploded, causing fatal wounds. Cpl Wheaton was posthumously awarded the first-ever Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military honor, as well as the French Croix De Guerre.