John W. Quinn, a man who served in the Navy for two decades and retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer, offers an insightful look into life with a disability in his memoir Someone Like Me. Yes, a man who achieved the second highest ranking in the Navy did so with a disability, cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder, impairs the body from functioning properly causing symptoms such as awkward gait, tight muscles, and bad balance. Someone Like Me reveals an accurate portrayal about life with a disability through discussing topics commonplace in the disabled community.
The most admirable part of John W. Quinn’s accomplishments is he kept his cerebral palsy a secret from the Navy during his career. Quinn made the decision to keep his disability a secret the first time he walked into the recruiter’s office, fearing automatic rejection if the Navy learned about his condition. Like Quinn I have cerebral palsy and through personal experience and correspondence with other individuals with disabilities, I can tell you automatic rejection exists as a common fear. This fear stems from some able body individuals innocently placing limitations on those with disabilities. By trying to hide our disabilities, we seek to receive equal opportunity.
Another common issue many people with disabilities encounter involves bullying. Bullies look for vulnerable targets such as people with disabilities. Bullies teased Quinn as a kid because his cerebral palsy makes him walk differently. Years later during the early part of his Navy career Quinn encountered more bullying. When the bullying escalated and turned physical, including punches in the arm and slaps to the back of the head, Quinn reported the incidents to his commanding officer who quickly dismissed the actions as harmless horseplay. Deeply concerned for his own safety Quinn decided to take action and with a dogging wrench in hand confronted his tormentor. Quinn writes about the confrontation’s end result in Someone Like Me “the bully from Kansas never teased me again.”
On a positive note, John W. Quinn reveals the significant power support from friends and family can have on an individual with a disability. Quinn’s awe-inspiring story, in fact, almost ended before getting started. Quinn failed his first Navy physical, a feat his recruiter couldn’t believe. “How can you fail the exam? Everyone passes this thing. It’s easy! Everyone!” The recruiter’s reaction vastly discouraged Quinn but John’s father along with his best friend Phil challenged him to try again. A year later Quinn overcame his cerebral palsy symptoms to pass the physical.
Overall, Someone Like Me by John W. Quinn proves a valuable read for anyone interested in learning about life with a disability. Someone Like Me is available at www.johnwquinn.com and Amazon.