As many of you know, I have a 19 year old daughter named Jessica. I adopted Jessica when she was 9 years old. She had spent most of her life in foster care, and along the way was both physically and sexually abused. In addition, she was diagnosed as an infant with brain cancer. She had a tumor removed and two years of chemo and radiation. The cancer and its treatment left her with a significant intellectual disability, and her time in foster care left her with a significant mental illness.

Jessica has, however, become a fine young woman. She does struggle daily to keep the mental illness under control, and she is striving to learn enough to be able to live semi-independently. She is still in school, and will stay there until she is age 22 and must leave. She is in a self-contained classroom and always has been.

So imagine my surprise when I received a phone call last week from a Navy recruiter. He asked if I was Jessica’s mother. I said yes. He then went into his recruiter spiel and I couldn’t get a word in because he was reading so fast from his script.

When he finally took a breath, I asked, “Have you met my daughter?” He said no, but that he was the recruiter assigned to her high school and was looking forward to meeting her. I asked, “Do you get any information about the students you are trying to recruit before contacting them, or do you just get a list of all student names from the school?” He said, “I get a list, and then I contact the students who are of age to recruit.”

I said, “Has it crossed your mind that some of the students you contact might not be qualified to enter the armed forces?” He said, “We work very closely with our recruits and are usually successful in helping them become the best they can be.”

I then described Jessica to him. This time I was the one not letting him get a word in. I told him of her background, of her challenges, of her sweet nature, of her desire to be, as he described, the best she can be. Finally I stopped, and then said, “Okay, now shall we discuss her recruitment?”

He was momentarily speechless, and then when he did talk, he stumbled all over his words. I decided to put him out of his misery, and suggested that perhaps in the future he might want to do a little more homework before contacting families.

I have always accepted Jessica’s challenges and love her for the person she is. But, I’ll bet there are some parents who are still saddened by dreams unfulfilled. Approaching such a parent with talk of Navy recruitment is just plain insensitive.

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