DOES UNCLE SAM REALLY WANT JARED?
Army recruiters, apparently under pressure to get their numbers up, have signed Jared up for a four-year hitch in one of the service’s most dangerous positions, cavalry scout. He was offered a $4,000 signing bonus, a college fund, “and more buddies than he could count.” But Jared didn’t understand he wouldn’t get the bonus until after basic training, that he was signing up for a four-year period, or just how dangerous this Army thing was going to be. His parents had to explain to him there was a war going on.
When Jared’s mother called the recruiter to explain the situation, she was told “Jared’s an 18 year-old man. He doesn’t need his mommy to make his decisions for him.”
The Army is now investigating the matter. Hopefully, that investigation will reach the obvious conclusion before Jared has to report on August 16.
The story in The Oregonian is more about the lengths to which recruiters go to remain ignorant of disqualifying factors than it is about autism. Indeed, the article relates the usual “no known cause or cure” line without mention of any of the controversies that remain the focus for so many of us. What the story does for me is to underline three needs.
First is the need to educate the public in general, and people in positions like army recruiters in particular, to recognize and understand the disabilities involved with autism. One recruiter told Jared’s mother that he (the recruiter) had dyslexia and it was no big deal. He didn’t particularly want to listen to a lecture on the differences between dyslexia and autism.
Second, we, as a country, need to develop alternative means of service for autistic adults so that they may contribute to worthwhile enterprises like national security in a meaningful and appropriate way.
Third, this story underlines for me, as a parent, the need to do everything I can do to get my child to a point where he can recognize the danger or inappropriateness of a choice, and he can advocate for himself. Does that mean I want to cure my son? Yeah, I guess it does.