Overweight Missouri man determined to become soldier

Monday, August 27, 2007 | 9:48 a.m. CDT; updated 11:28 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - As a boy, Devin Wielar was constantly teased about his weight. As a grown-up, was told he was too big to join the military — something he had always wanted to do.

When Wielar, 20, tried to enlist in the Missouri National Guard, he was turned away because he tipped the scales at 295 pounds.

"There were no two ways about it: he was fat," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Cobb, an Army National Guard recruiter.

But Wielar refused to give up on his dream. He began drilling as a guest with new privates who were part of the Recruit Sustainment Program at the Mayse Armory in St. Joseph.

"I have been a large person my whole life and have always made fun of," Wielar said.

The sustainment program is designed to help new recruits succeed before they leave for basic training. Wielar, of Holt, began running with Cobb, two miles three times a week at first, at a slow pace that gradually increased.

The routine wasn't easy for Wielar, but he was determined to see it through.

"I was a guest — they couldn't make me do it," he said. "Then again, what kind of person would I have been to do something like that?"

Eventually, part of Wielar's motivation to run and lose weight became not wanting to let Cobb down.

"I was, and still am, so determined to be a soldier that the very idea of quitting was disgusting," Wielar said.

For Cobb's part, his role in Wielar's training went beyond simply landing another recruit.

"My job isn't about achieving a certain number of enlistments; rather it is about caring for others and doing so with Army values," Cobb said.

He said it soon became clear that Wielar was highly motivated to get his weight down. And that's what he did, dropping 70 pounds in a year.

Wielar enlisted June 7 and is attending basic training at Fort Sill, Okla.

One day, Wielar's drill sergeant called him out of formation and congratulated him on losing 70 pounds. Then he told Wielar he needed to lose 70 more before he finished boot camp.

"Without hesitation, he said, `Yes, drill sergeant,'" Cobb said.

Wielar will drill with Bravo Battery, 129th Field Artillery at the armory in Chillicothe after he returns to Missouri, Cobb said.

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