Were we just supposed to kind of brush past this part, and focus on the immediate goal of inclusion?
But with the help of a deaf interpreter, Nolan excelled, Mendoza said. He showed up at 5 a.m. exercises even though he was not required to and despite initially straining to see the interpreter in the darkness, he immediately was able to follow the commands, and earned a perfect score in his military sciences class.
We must be forgiven when we see these AP stories describing people’s brave struggle to overcome odds and immediately ask “Okay, what’s the angle? How is it that traditional America is sooo mean-spirited today?” Because, after all, they are AP stories. Look, somebody wanting to serve their country, that’s a good thing, no question. Somebody with a disability – give ’em a helping hand, a leg up, whatever. And yes, the fellow wants to go into Military Intelligence, and not into pre-dawn patrols, where having an interpreter to relay the “Halt! Who goes there?” upon returning to base, and straining to get it and answer before you get your head shot off is not a viable option. The point here is, the guy was not even able to pass his military sciences classes without an interpreter. Not only that, the photo accompanying the AP story shows the guy using an interpreter to give his story to the AP at Cal State -Northridge, where he was able to participate in ROTC but unable to be commissioned because he is deaf. The article does not say he is dumb, or mute, though hearing-impaired people often have speech problems. The point is, the article says he “signed” his comments to the interpreter in his AP interview. So the guy cannot hear, cannot rely on his speech and must be accompanied by an interpreter.
We don’t know how many deaf people there are in the country who want to go through ROTC, or to enlist, or to be allowed to serve in some capacity or another, and if special exemptions can be given, and these people can be found billets where it doesn’t take another body to help them realize their dream, that’s fine. We are sure that common sense would prevail in the extreme examples like the pre-dawn patrol mentioned above. But whenever issues like the one the AP presents here crop up, the discussion is usually reduced to “Well, the guy can sit at a computer at a base or in the Pentagon and do MI work, so there’s really no valid reason for rejecting him.” Well, yes, if that’s all there is to MI work. We wouldn’t really know, for sure, though we have heard of examples where MI guys actually have to go in the field and…..interact.
But more than that, let’s assume that the guy is not in the field, but is at his desk in a secure room at his base, or at the Pentagon, when his computer screen goes blank and then there is a knock at the door ……………..which he can’t hear. Or let’s suppose that his superior comes rushing in, wearing a gas mask, and says ………says……….to him …….”The base is under attack! Drop what you’re doing, go to the locker and pick up an M-1, or a .45, stop by the mess hall and tell everyone there to go get their weapons and meet you at the northeast gate.” How much of that did the guy get? Nada. Even if he was a lip reader. Okay, that’s war movie-type stuff, and old war movie-type stuff at that. The point is that in the Army, everyone is a soldier. There are certain things that everyone has to be able to do. Yes, there are specialties and yes, it would be absurd, expecially in these modern times, to expect everyone to be able to do everything. But…….war is war.
Would a hearing disability prevent a soldier from picking up a rifle and training it upon an advancing foe? No. But it sure might very well prevent him from hearing the command to fire. In the Navy, in days of old, the right-hand salute and the shout “Aye, Aye Sir!” meant “I heard the order, I understand the order, and I will carry it out to the best of my ability, Sir!” Plus, everybody had to be able to jump into a pool of water and float. Because on the odd occasion, ships sink, or at least they used to. Also in days of old, military planners, and their civilian overlords, took the long view.
The office of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., said the congressman plans to meet Nolan in the fall to continue to work on his behalf. Nolan wants Waxman to sponsor a bill allowing deaf people into the armed forces.
Nolan has sent an inquiry to the Army and is waiting for a reply explaining why he could not be commissioned.