30 July 2011

A Tale of a 19D Cav Scout in the Army Reserve

A Story Like Mine
A few months ago, I learned about the plight of a man in his 20s who wished to join the Army Reserve. His story began in a manner that was, in some ways, similar to my own. Let's call him John.

The obstacle that stood in the way of John's dream was the same one I faced almost a year ago.

It really doesn't need to be said that case studies aren't much for compelling evidence - on any issue - but John's story does reassure us of the soul's indomitable will to endure.

Pasts That Haunt Us
I was a junior in high school, 17 years old, when I was taken to the emergency room for a shoulder dislocation that never bothered me again. I never gave it much thought either - until this past September, for the same reasons it returned to John's attention.

When he was 17 years old, John paid a visit to the ER for a gunshot injury to his leg that never bothered him again - until his decision to enlist in the Reserve.

To realize his ambition, however, would require that John receive the thumbs up from the people holding the keys: MEPS, "Freedom's Front Door". For many young men and women, the process is timely and pleasant. But for many others, including John, it becomes an emotional trying time keeping them from their dreams.

Trial by Time
In July of 2009, John stepped into a recruiting station and began the process of enlistment into the United States Army Reserve. Part of the required paperwork was a complete disclosed history of all past medical conditions with documentation. That included a copy of the medical report detailing his stay at the ER.

A review by the physicians at MEPS led to a decision to "defer" John's qualification screening - and subsequently his chance to swear into the United States military.

7 months later, in early February, MEPS deferred John a second time for legibility issues with his medical report.

After resolving that hiccup, John was booked for his MEPS trip, only to be deferred a third time pending an orthopedic consult.

After listening to John's story up to this point, it would be understandable for any Soldier Hopeful to grow disheartened; I certainly was.

Eventually, John stopped updating his peers about his predicament, and I was unable to gain any insight into his ultimate fate.

Did he ever go to MEPS?
Is John a Soldier now?

Beast of Burden
Equus africanus asinus is the scientific name for the domesticated donkey, an animal regarded by popular opinion to be stubborn and stupid. It has been a relatively devalued animal in mainstream culture until recently.

But what the uninformed may not know, besides its role as a proficient pack animal capable of carrying heavy loads, is that the donkey has historically served as a reliable alternative to the dog as a guard animal, protecting droves of sheep from predators at home.

The American Robert Green, a miniature donkey importer, once said of donkeys:
"Miniature donkeys possess the affectionate nature of a Newfoundland, the resignation of a cow, the durability of a mule, the courage of a tiger, and the intellectual capability only slightly inferior to man's."


Finding a Way
After 5 days with no word, John broke the news.

On 18 Feb. 2010, John swore into the Army Reserve as a 19 Delta, Cavalry Scout. He would ship to Ft. Benning for one-station unit training (OSUT) on 04 Nov. 2010.

John only lingered around another day before leaving once again without a trace.

Anyone who has made it to this point in the enlistment process knows that there still lies the possibility of being prematurely discharged. In fact, my roommate with whom I was assigned during my brief MEPS visit had been discharged from the Navy before he even had a chance to ship to Illinois for recruit training.

Knowing this, I wanted to know for certain that John had indeed shipped and long ago become a Soldier serving his country. Keep in mind that John had documented his struggle a year ago. There was no update of his status following the date of his expected completion of infantry training.

This past Memorial Day, I was doing some breadcrumb navigation on an Internet forum to brush up on my nutrition.

By chance, I found an old thread I had posted in where I happened upon a user with an alias identical to the one John had used years ago.

Of note was a glaring gap in this user's activity, beginning in late February of last year and lasting until the middle of March - a time period in which this individual could conceivably have spent time preparing himself during his DEP period, shipped to and graduated OSUT, and been assigned to his first duty station.

The user had enlisted a year ago as a Cav Scout in the Army Reserve.

In the 1997 film Gattaca, 2 brothers, Vincent and Anton, decide to play a game of chicken: the goal is to swim out as far into the sea as possible and hope that the other turns back to shore first, thus admitting defeat.

Anton, the younger of the brothers, has been deemed genetically superior to his older sibling. Vincent, on the other hand, has a low life expectancy and a heart defect. Playing the game as children always yielded the same outcome: Anton would predictably win.

But strangely, Anton begins to find that he can no longer beat his brother at chicken. One of the final snapshots of their childhood reveals that it is Vincent who swims a drowning Anton back to shore.

Toward the end of the movie, when the brothers have grown older - and Vincent has clearly lived beyond his calculated life expectancy and defied the constraints of his heart deformity - they decide to play chicken one last time.

During a brief pause in the race, Anton calls out to Vincent, who is ahead.

"Vincent- how are you doing this, Vincent? How've you done any of this? We have to go back."
"No, it's too late for that. We're closer to the other side."
"What other side? You wanna drown us both?"
"You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back."