Moderatix note: This post will be United States Military centric, as that is the perspective I offer, and the broken system within which I currently exist and attempt to navigate. Other voices are welcome and experiences appreciated within the context of the conversation, since I can not pretend to know every thing about every military experience from every branch in every country.
A while back I wrote a little bit about Permanent Limited Duty, or PERMLIMDU as we called it in the Navy. It is the status you are placed in when you are injured or sick enough that you can no longer perform your job to military standards and the military has a board decide how much you can do, how long you can do it for, blah blibbity blah.
I also get a daily subscription to the Stars and Stripes newspaper because I like to read while I am on the toilet. It seems appropriate.
So it stands to reason that I would come across this article from Stars and Stripes (the online and the paper may vary a bit, I haven’t matched them up side by side, but there is usually a slight variation if I can find them in both mediums at all) about servicemembers who are “fighting to get back”. Actually, in the online version the headline uses a cute joke “but results may vary”. I tried hard to laugh. *ahem*
Now, let me be perfectly clear: I applaud the efforts of the military members who worked through their injuries and fought to return to their jobs. I hesitate to applaud this type of story, because these always, always, especially when covered by the military, feel “inspirational” to me, even though the veteran in me applauds the veteran who is them, irrespective of the intersection of race, gender or other marginalization, for getting back to any kind of duty status. Because the military is an animal that will eat the less than perfect alive and shit them out and bury them, forgetting they ever existed.
According to the article, “200 soldiers, 58 Marines, 33 sailors [I would have been 34] and six airmen have petitioned for, and won, the ability to continue to serve even though the military has found them unfit for duty”, which is nothing short of remarkable considering the way the military has about tearing people down. What is interesting is this article and the way it highlights some aspects of this marginalization, and glosses over others altogether.
Most interesting to me is that of all of those people, they could not find one woman to highlight? Hmm… funny that. I can’t imagine that not one of those many people who came back to PERMLIMDU status was a woman.
Most aggravating to me was the story of Spc. Jake Altman, whose story was almost presented as a he-said, he-said, except that they casually dismissed Altman’s feelings of being mistreated. He mentions being put on patrol in a damned war zone without his prosthesis, because his superior said that it looked like it was hard for him to see others doing it better than him. So, what? Was it Sgt. O’Brien’s job to teach Altman a lesson in hard knocks? Because something tells me that Altman had already skipped ahead a few courses in that one and could happily give O’Brien the Cliff’s notes explanation. Not that I think he would listen. Because a good number of TABs tend to not really try to get it when PWDs try to describe their experiences to them.
Altman contacted the Warrior Transition Unit, a wonderful thing the Army has going on, and has eventually sought discharge. I can empathize.
Because at the end of the day, no matter how much you want to stay in and do the job, what others think and how they treat you matters. It matters enough to drive you out. I think that if someone did a study or a survey or wev, they would find that people who transitioned out of the military due to illness or injury might possibly have depression due to a crushing loss of the camaraderie, but that is my lay opinion based on my own experiences.
The dismissive air of the article over Altman’s attempt at returning to deployment, and the following segment, subtitled “Up To The Challenge” as if Altman somehow had a moral failing, as if the treatment of those around him, who judged him outright and convicted him of being less-than due to his injury.
My job in PERMLIMDU would have been much different. I am not even exactly sure what it would have been, to be honest, because… well, in my mind I still gave up. Getting injured in the military, or ill, or anything that makes you less than a perfect TAB specimen, eats you alive. It starts to kill you from the inside, knowing that you are a failure, because you have been conditioned that anything less than the best is unacceptable. The glimmer of hope that is PERMLIMDU gives you back a sliver of that self worth.