Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Damascus graduates on their way to Iraq

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Maryland National Guard Pvt. David Worrell Jr. of Damascus will be deployed to Iraq by next month. He will join forces with two of his best friends, Pvt. Emilio Villeda of Mount Airy and Pvt. Jose Salamanca of Damascus, who are also members of the National Guard.
Three friends who formed a lasting bond at Damascus High School will soon be serving in Iraq as members of the Maryland National Guard.

Pvt. David Worrell Jr. of Damascus, 19, enlisted in the National Guard in November 2005, just a week after his friend, Pvt. Emilio Villeda, 20, of Mount Airy, enlisted.

The two are heading for Iraq as part of the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment. After a few days of leave last week, they are on their way to Fort Dix, N.J., before deploying overseas.

Another friend, Pvt. Jose Salamanca, 20, of Damascus, who is part of the National Guard’s Bravo Company, is already in Kuwait on his way to Iraq next month.

All three graduated from Damascus High School in 2005.

‘‘I’m a little scared and a little excited,” he said during a conversation last week while in Damascus visiting his family. ‘‘It will definitely be an experience. I’m well focused on what I have got to get done over there so I can get home as fast as I can. I’m trying to keep my mind ready. I’m don’t want to be complacent.”

Attempts to meet with Villeda were unsuccessful. Salamanca, already in the Middle East, could not be reached for comment.

‘‘I’ve known them for three or four years,” Worrell said of his two friends. ‘‘They are great guys. I’ve definitely seen the change in them [ever since] they joined the military. I’m glad to go with them, but you know, I’ve met plenty of guys in my unit and other guys that I’m going with that I feel good about.”

When Worrell announced that he wanted to sign up for the Iraq War, he had the strong support of his father, David Worrell Sr., a former Army soldier.

His mother, Gurprett ‘‘Katie” Worrell, however, was a little skeptical.

‘‘When they are going off to war, you really have no control,” Katie Worrell said. ‘‘I have all the confidence in him as a mother that he will handle himself very well, but I can’t control the outside forces. I support him as a soldier, but as a mother it is very hard, especially when they are so young.”

However, her support for her son’s decision to sign up for the war in Iraq has grown steadily in the past year. Worrell Jr. also has a sister, Rachel, 21, who supports his decision to serve in the National Guard.

Worrell Jr. began his three-month basic training stint in January at Fort Benning, Ga. He earned a rare 40 out of 40 during basic rifle marksmanship training, where soldiers take aim at moving targets that are 50 to 300 feet away.

His high marksmanship score earned him a place in Airborne School, which was also held at Fort Benning and where he learned how to safely jump out of airplanes.

David Worrell Sr. was in the Army for three years in the field artillery unit during the early 1980s. He said that his son has become more confident, patient and thoughtful since he has joined the armed forces.

‘‘It makes me feel fortunate that my son is one of those who will take the challenge and do what needs to be done,” Worrell Sr. said. ‘‘Obviously, someone’s young men and women have to do it, so I’m proud that mine decided to do it.”

The younger Worrell has been enamored with the military ever since he was a young boy, inspired in large part by his father’s military service.

When Worrell was growing up, his father told him about the valuable lessons in leadership that he learned in the Army.

Worrell Jr. said being in the military has made him feel much more patriotic about the country.

The Worrell family, who moved to Damascus from Wheaton in 2003, said it is going to be tough to watch the news about the violence in Iraq now that a member of their family will be there.

‘‘I really believe we need the surge that we are putting in,” Worrell Jr. said. ‘‘I think that should have happened at the beginning. I’m sure the guys over there are looking for fresh guys over there to relieve them.”