By Gina Vaile/Managing editor
Most people don’t think twice before picking up a ringing telephone to see who is on the other end. The average Eastern college student is excited to receive packages from the FedEx delivery truck. But for Danny Werkmiester, 22, a phone call and the sight of a FedEx truck make his heart skip a beat. He knows either one could change his life forever.
“I don’t mind if I get called up, that’s not a big deal,” he said. “I’m an American soldier and I’ll fight for my country if I have to.”
During most weeks Werkmiester is the typical college student. But at least one weekend each month, he drives to Jeffersonville, Ind., where he meets up with his Army reserve unit. Then he puts on the hat of a soldier.
“I’m a crane operator and I also operate forklifts. My job is to just take care of the machinery and maintain them,” he said.
Last weekend while performing duties as a soldier in the U.S. Reserves, Werkmiester and the rest of the members of his unit were informed to begin getting paperwork in order for possible deployment.
“We actually flew up to Indianapolis last weekend,” he said. There they were told to get the proper records, including wills, written and in order.
Some of the soldiers in his unit have already been pulled from his unit and detached to another to a 365-day deployment in the Gulf Region.
“Right now I’m just on a standby kind of deal where I’m not active, but if they need me they’ll call, and I’m ready to go,” he said.
Werkmiester said the support he has received from Eastern faculty and staff has been helpful in his time of waiting. He said most of his professors have provided mental support that he finds very helpful.
“They all say to me, ‘I’m glad to see you are still here,’ and that means a lot,” he said.
Werkmiester is worried about finishing his Eastern courses before any deployment. A senior, expecting to graduate in December, he hopes to at least make it through this semester before being activated.
“I’m worried if I get sent overseas what will happen to my scholarships and financial aid. Some of it is through the Army, but I don’t know if any of it will be replaced or if I will have to pay anything back,” he said.
But his main concern isn’t the courses he might have to repeat or the money he could lose if he fights in the war with Iraq. Werkmiester is most concerned about his wife of only one short year, who he will leave behind.
“I’m really not scared of anything except leaving her,” he said. “She’ll be by herself and I’ll worry about if she’ll be able to take care of everything.”
Werkmiester, who is a broadcast major, said he has mixed feelings about the roles of journalists embedded with the troops fighting in the Gulf Region.
He says there are good and bad sides to the amount of coverage coming from the region.
“The positive is that they can see what’s happening in the war; it makes them feel at ease that they can actually see it and know what’s going on and they’re not turned off and worrying so much,” he said about his parents, who have watched the coverage since the beginning.
But Werkmiester said he is worried his parents and the rest of the world might see something they shouldn’t.
“I’m sure, without a doubt, one of these days something bad is going to happen live and you know, I’m not really sure how they’re going to deal with that. Especially if they see my unit or another unit that is close to me.”
Werkmiester said since the first strike on Iraq, his worry has been that the war is moving too quickly. He fears a chemical attack on U.S. troops or here at home.
And it’s not easy waiting for the phone to ring or the FedEx truck to pull up, either of which could deliver deployment orders.
When asked if it’s hard on his life, he said it’s not too difficult.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen when I get called up. It’s not really that hard because I’m a soldier and I’ll fight for my country.”