Andrew Weissenberger, Source America’s Veteran of the Year, speaks with Col. Stuart J. McRae, garrison commander, March 5 during a filming of his daily life at work as a service order dispatcher. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)
Published: March 14, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 14, 2014) -- When his country called, he answered, and although he has seen the good and the bad of what the Army can offer a Soldier, he would jump at the chance to be a Soldier again if it was an option.
Andrew Weissenberger, a service order dispatcher and Army retiree, was issued a medical retirement after 18 years as a combat engineer. He spent time overseas in Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait in both the Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism.
He retired at the rank of sergeant, but not before being hit with six improvised explosive devices in one year— one of which sent him flying 40 feet in the air before he crashed onto a tank.
To honor his commitment to the Army and the American people, he was named Source America’s Veteran of the Year.
“We are very grateful for the support (Weissenberger) gives to the garrison here at Fort Rucker and we congratulate him on being awarded Source America’s Veteran of the Year,” said Col. Stuart J. McRae, garrison commander. “He brings a special enthusiasm to his position … and he quickly became an integral part of our garrison team.
“We are lucky to have employees like Andy, and we embrace the idea that everybody should have the opportunity to meet their maximum potential. Whether a Solder, a civilian employee or contractor we are one team here at Fort Rucker,” he continued.
Audrey Farrington of Pride Industries was impressed by his story in Pride’s salute to veterans and submitted the story to Source America for nomination, said Kim Curry, Pride Industries general manager Fort Rucker.
Weissenberger loves his job with Directorate of Public Works because he gets to support Soldiers and their Families.
“When people call in service orders for building maintenance, I am the one who writes the orders up for the technicians so they go out and take care of issues that need to be addressed on post,” he said. “That can be anything from changing a light bulb to fixing a broken water line. I love helping support the Soldiers who defend my country.”
At first he was worried if he had the abilities for the job because of its logistical nature, but soon he realized it was a perfect fit.
“My goal is the same as it was when I was in the Army – to achieve as much as I can and teach others as much as possible,” he said. “It took me a while to be able to even go back to work because of my injuries. But I am so happy now.”
Weissenberger got a reputation in his unit after the first few IEDs. Gaining the nickname “Magnet,” though, didn’t scare or faze him.
“At first I shrugged them off, but looking back now, many of them were right on the money,” he said. “It is a miracle I am alive.”
The worst incident, he recounted, was the second and third IEDs because they went off within moments and feet of each other.
But, luckily for him, a military truck blocked the closer explosion, which was only 10 feet away, otherwise, he said, he wouldn’t be here.
“I count my blessings every day, and I am so thankful,” he said.
His daughters were 3 and 1 when he left for his last tour, but when he came home he said he was a changed person, including how he acted as a father. One thing he said he brought home was changing how wasteful he said his Family were.
Weissenberger also still has a hard time in crowds and closed-in spaces. He cannot walk without the assistance of a cane or a wheelchair because of his injuries, which include upper and lower spinal injuries, a fractured hip, a damaged knee and a traumatic brain injury.
He tries to be as self mobile as possible, only using the chair when he really needs it, such as when he goes to the grocery store or has to stand for more than a few minutes.
He said he does not regret his service to America, which made him a better person, and that he still misses the purpose and camaraderie that cannot be found anywhere else.
“My time in the Army makes me value everything more,” he said. “Every second that goes by I get better, but there are still bad days, too. It’s going to be a lifelong process.”
Weissenberger had advice for Soldiers that unexpectedly become wounded warriors.
“Reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a lot of people and organizations willing and wanting to help,” he said. “Talk to someone, and don’t be ashamed or scared to talk. Get it off your chest because if you don’t you will carry it around until you do.”
The award is well deserved, said Curry.
“He works so hard and is such a pleasure to work with. We are inspired by him every day because he gets here by overcoming his physical handicaps,” she said. “He motivates us each day because he has to get here by maneuvering his chair. And on days when I wake up and just want to go back to bed I think how lucky I am to get ready for work and it being so easy compared with what (Weissenberger) has to do.”
This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/121884/
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