After Danny Warrick graduated from Rushville High School in 1961, he volunteered for the United States Army. Almost 60 years later, his service has led to winning an international award and meeting the daughter he never knew he had.
Warrick, 77, recalls being assigned from Stuttgart, Germany, to Berlin in the fall of 1962. As a military police officer, Warrick was stationed at Checkpoint Charlie, the well-known Berlin Wall crossing point between West Berlin and East Berlin. He remembers working nine 12-hour days before getting three days off.
Warrick would often wave and yell at his East German counterparts across the way and invite them across. One 1963 summer day, two of them worked up the nerve and came running.
“It didn't take them very long,” Warrick said. “When they came across, one of them took off his belt buckle, his shoulder brass and his hat emblem and gave them to me. I don't know why.”
He never saw the men again but said he saw maybe seven people escape East Germany before coming home to Rushville in May 1964.
Warrick brought the guards' items home with him and put them in a drawer.
He moved to Syracuse in 1983 and built his house with his wife, Maria, outside North Webster in 1988 before retiring from Dana Corp. in 2001. They had two children, Dennis in 1966 and Brandi in 1977. His wife passed away in 2013.
Warrick's story got more interesting last February when his children received a message through Facebook asking if they knew a Danny Warrick. The message came from what turned out to be Warrick's granddaughter. Her mother, Carmen, was born as a result of a short relationship he had with a German girl.
Carmen was born Dec. 29, 1964, in Berlin and has three daughters, Michelle, Victoria and Vivian. Carmen's mother has passed away. Warrick took his son and daughter on a trip to Germany in May to meet Carmen and her family.
“I was very nervous,” Warrick said. “When we got off the plane in Berlin, we were getting our luggage and stuff and I heard this voice and I turned around and it was Carmen. Needless to say, all of us were crying.”
“It was very strange, almost like we already had known each other,” Brandi Antu said. “It was never awkward.”
The visit included a tour of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum where Warrick found a picture of himself which got the interest of the museum curator. She asked if he knew anything else, and he told of more pictures and the items from the East German soldier which Warrick decided to donate.
The trip lasted a week, and by the end, “None of us wanted to leave each other,” Warrick said.
But just several months later, Warrick scheduled a return trip to Germany with his children, Dennis and Brandi, their spouses and two granddaughters. The highlight of this trip was watching Warrick receive the International Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Medal for Human Rights during a museum banquet.
Hildebrandt was a World War II German resistance fighter who later founded the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin. A foundation he established hands out the awards annually to people known for their work in human rights. Previous winners include Yitzhak Rabin, Suzanne Mubarak and Yoko Ono.
“I had some notes written down on what to say, and I couldn't remember any of them,” Warrick said of the ceremony with a laugh.
During that visit, Warrick also donated to the museum the East German guard items that had been in his drawer more than 50 years.
Warrick is hoping to return to Germany this summer if his legs allow. There also is hope that Carmen and her husband will come visit in the summer.
Now Warrick has new stories to savor, along with eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“We talk to each other at least once a week,” Warrick said of his German family. “It's starting to get to where every time we talk to each other we learn a little more of each other. It's been wonderful.”