Do you expect that a wounded warrior must always have a limb missing or be wheelchair bound?
Do you expect that a wounded warrior must be unemployable or unable to contribute to the welfare of society or to their own living capacity?
Or perhaps even if they do not look “sick” then then someone who calls themselves a Wounded Warrior is not sick?
I took my daughter to a softball practice the other week where parking was very limited at the batting range which was very overcrowded due to the weather and not being able to practice outside. We adults were discussing the parking situation and this little girl looked at me and said, “You are disabled?” I replied, “Yes, I am. I am very sick.”
There is a Wounded Warrior parking sign just past the other handicap signs at a neighborhood grocery store parking lot. I had to choose carefully whether I should part there or not. I mean, do I consider myself a Wounded Warrior? By the definitions that we are told this is only applicable to those of recent conflicts however I beg to differ. I decided that I too am a Wounded Warrior – I served not only during combat but I am battling my own physical war every day due to my military service. One has to think about it, do I want that label? Or is Wounded Warrior really the truth? What are the consequences of parking in that spot labeled Wounded Warrior?
I have Veteran friends who have been accosted for parking in that spot and had to show proof (to an ordinary customer) that they were a veteran and then the customer demanded some explanation as to how the Veteran could possibly be disabled though it was none of their business. Other Veterans have had tires slashed for even parking in a handicap spot. In order to “combat” my own fears about having someone dispute my ability to park in a Wounded Warrior spot, I applied a sticker to my truck window that I served in Desert Storm. My handicap tags should have been proof enough but you see, we have to take things further to prove our status lest we be judged.
It is a shame that we have to do this. I know, there is also the aspect of being a woman – a woman veteran too that I get the looks. Even at the VA, where I sometimes get those stares – a mix of feeling like a Princess among on the Princes at the VA and then the looks like I don’t belong. Here is the truth though, I am not only a Woman Veteran, but I am also a Disabled Woman Veteran and the stigma of being either is tough to overcome. I met a young lady veteran yesterday, almost 24 years old going through the same knee problems I have, waiting for her knee replacement when she turns 25. She’s hoping to go through nursing school to become an RN unless or until such time she is deemed not physically fit to do so which she is afraid is coming at some point.
The next time you come across a Veteran, whether you know if they are disabled or not, please do not pass any judgment if they can do the job you want to hire them. Please do not determine that they are not disabled when they really may be. I promise you, there are wounds and scars hidden that you may not see – but alas, they are there. We go through our new “enabled lives” the best we can each and every day. Where I may have lost some of my physical abilities, my new abilities are far greater an enrichment to who I am and I would venture to say the same for my fellow sisters and brothers each and every day too. What we really need, is your support and love – your seeds of compassion and encouragement without a speck of sorrow for who we are now compared to who we were.
Wounded Warriors come in all sorts of shapes and looks. Alas, being a Wounded Warrior makes us better people because we are alive and what is more, we are surviving and we are stronger in our hearts and in our minds. I guess one could say that a Wounded Warrior might look normal, but then again, what does “normal” look like?