Humans of Trine: Eden Diller
By: Meghan Schrader
Being a 20-year-old college student during a global pandemic is difficult enough, but what if you’re suddenly tasked with protecting the public as well? You transport patients and perform COVID tests and approve rent request. This all seems like a bit much for a 20-year-old, but this was the summer experience of Trine c
hemical engineering sophomore, Eden Diller, along with many more challenges.
Eden joined the Indiana National Guard at the young age of 17 in the hopes of receiving financial assistance in her future college endeavors. As the Coronavirus pandemic took over our summer, Eden and her fellow guardsmen were called upon to help.
Eden, having lost her internship for the summer, volunteered to go active in early April. But this is hardly the beginning of Eden’s story.
As campus shut down last spring, Eden packed up all of her belongings and moved back into her father’s house, whom she hadn’t lived with since being kicked out upon joining the National Guard.
“So, my father is an end-of-lifer. He thought that the world was going to blow up when COVID came,” Eden tells us, “At the start of all of it, probably mid-February, he basically said ‘you can come move in, or you can’t come back.’ I didn’t have anywhere else to go.” Her boyfriend of three years also moved into the residence, but, one morning, received the unexpected and heartbreaking phone call regarding his own father’s untimely death. The couple left the residence to consul and support his family, and have a small, private burial, which is all they were allowed.
Eden, having lived with her boyfriend’s family for several summers, felt this loss deeply. It was not soon after that she received the call to go active. In these turbulent times, Eden collected her belongings from her father’s garage, and moved to Muncie to “fight the invisible war,” as they call it.
“It was crazy to see my boyfriend of three years go through the worst thing of his life and me not being there,” Eden said.
“Life was rough, not having the person I looked to most for comfort,” Trine senior mechanical engineer major and Eden’s boyfriend, Steve Moore, said. But the work had begun. Eden and her fellow guardsmen first underwent patient transport and care training in case the state’s ambulance system became overwhelmed, but soon moved on to where they were most needed: testing sites.
Eden worked in the state’s headquarters overseeing groups of people performing COVID response and staffing their 64 testing locations in Indiana. She performed mostly administrative work, kept track of where people were, and was also her commander’s driver.
“I was in on a lot of meetings that a lot of people my age don’t get to see, which was really cool,” Eden said, “I was really nervous at first working with a lot of people who made a lot more money than me and were a lot older than me, but it’s kind of more of a “prove yourself” kind of situation, so once they saw that I was actually trying and I wasn’t an idiot, then they warmed up to me, and it ended up being great.”
At the beginning of August, the Indiana National Guard transitioned into manning prisons to assist with prison screening and testing. Eden herself moved frequently over the summer, staying in various hotels in Muncie and Indianapolis, and being fed Bob Evans twice a day for 16 weeks. Eden remarks that she will never eat Bob Evans again.
Though this wasn’t the easiest or best of circumstances, Eden remained grateful to have a job and a place to stay when so many Americans, at the time, did not.
“I think the biggest challenge was just the uncertainty of it all,” Eden said, “Not only did we not know what was going to happen to the world, but we also didn’t know when our next day off was going to be. We didn’t know if we were going to get paid. We didn’t know if we were going to have a place to stay that night, and that was probably the worst part, just the uncertainty. You get your hopes up that you’re going to see your family and then they’re like ‘oh, we have to work all weekend.’ So that was probably the worst.” Eden adds that, at headquarters, they were usually lucky enough to have every other weekend off, during which she would try to see her family, but wasn’t always able to.
As the Black Lives Matter movement and protests flooded the country, Eden remarks that the National Guard began to be frowned upon. Despite Indiana’s National Guard having no involvement in riot control or protest management, Eden and her co-workers would often receive dirty looks and unpleasant comments while out and about in uniform.
“They definitely tried to keep us out of that kind of loop [riot control] because we had a mission to focus on, and that was COVID response,” Eden said, “It was hard for everybody during that time. People were scared. People were definitely scared.” This experience did offer many opportunities for Eden over the summer, though. She was able to meet many new people and get to know her full-time command well, as well as make her mark on the National Guard.
“People started to respect me a lot more,” Eden explained, “Being a woman, being lower enlisted, it was really cool to be a part of that.” Once Trine’s semester started, Eden was able to transition into working remotely, approving Indiana residence’s rent assistance applications, which she expects to do until October while being a full-time student.
“It has been kind of hard just to juggle the workload of that full-time job plus the workload of going to school,” Eden says, though she maintains her positive and grateful attitude.
Every morning, Eden wakes up around 7 a.m. and sends a text to her command, letting them know she is indeed awake. She performs her work in between classes. Though she is not required to work during business hours, it makes it easier for her to be working when everyone else is. She does homework in the evenings and works extra on Saturdays to make up for any time she lost during the week. Though she doesn’t like to admit it, Eden processes more applications in a few hours than her co-workers do in an entire 40-hour work week, so she’s keeping up fine.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Eden says about coming off of orders in October. She’s been able to save up much-needed funds for her school, and counts herself lucky to have had this experience, but having more free time for her schooling will be much appreciated.
A 20-year-old college student spent her summer managing countless individuals and now spends her time approving rent assistance for hundreds of Indiana residents. Dealing with family drama, loss, pollical and social unrest, and the everyday struggles of a college student, Eden Diller served her country and helped keep each of us safe during a global pandemic.
Her story is one of inspiration, as much as she’d hate for anyone to say. As her roommate, I witness her carrying herself with a strength and humility not often seen, and I’m proud of her.