A Tribute to Veterans with Disabilities

A man in a military uniform, saluting, with his back to the camera,.

By DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

I was born into a military family. My father was a Master Sergeant in the Army serving in Korea. Two of my brothers and two of my uncles were also in the Army. Two of my brothers-in-law served—one in Vietnam and one in Desert Storm. My stepbrother was a Marine; my stepfather was an Air Force Chaplain. One nephew served in Kosovo. Throughout history, Native American men and women have enlisted in various services from the Revolutionary War to the present. Native Americans joined the military as a way to leave the poverty of the reservation and to prove their courage. At every Powwow, veterans are honored with special recognition.

In the visually impaired community, we owe our veterans much in our increased mobility. Guide dogs were first trained in Germany to lead blinded World War I veterans. The long white mobility cane was developed here in the U.S. also to assist veterans in gaining back their independent travel ability. Thinking of all these things led to my writing this tribute, which I wish to share on Veterans Day.

The Brotherhood

Wounded veterans with Helen Keller

Once, you could mask fears with a uniform.
When you stood tall, they saw courage and strength.
You had brothers and sisters beside you.
Then came pain, anger, loss, and despair.
You wondered if you could bear the changes.
Society’s mirror can’t reflect you.
It shows only your disability.
You can’t accept yourself in that image.
You’re a soldier in a new battle zone,
A draftee in a war not of your choice.
But you don’t stand alone in this conflict.
You have comrades in arms to support you.
Some recruits joined the fighting at their birth.
They armored themselves with resolution.
Their weapons were determination and will.
They fight for equality not pity.
They challenge the walls of indifference.
Redefine what it means to be human.
They will protect your back wounded warrior.
You will always be welcome among us.