Jake Wessling answered his first subordinate salute as an Army officer on Saturday.
Later the same day, he shook hands with UND President Kennedy after receiving his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
It was a day of achievements for the freshly minted second lieutenant. However, over the span of five years as a student-soldier in UND’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, there were days that either milestone could have been considered a longshot.
In fact, Wessling’s quest to become a military officer was nearly over before it started after he suffered a severe case of rhabdomyolysis, or heat exhaustion, his freshman year. The military takes heat-stress injuries among its officer candidates seriously, to the point that a soldier may be ineligible to commission.
A challenging academic discipline in mechanical engineering also took its toll on Wessling, so much he considered quitting the major his sophomore year.
But Wessling, a native of Maple Grove, Minn., who played varsity football on the defensive line and raced motocross bikes as a kid, persevered in both cases. He moved up the ROTC ranks to become UND’s battalion cadet commander this past semester, and graduated with a 3.0 grade point average in mechanical engineering.