Nov. 12, 2012
On this Veteran’s Day, please consider this monologue, “My Junk,” written by Air Force Sgt. James Sherman. He performed it as part of the local Phamaly Theatre Company’s fifth annual “Vox Phamilia,” a collection of original scenes and comic sketches offering an at-times times brutally honest perspective on living with a disability. Sherman’s piece carried additional poignancy for me, having seen it yesterday on Veteran’s Day (which is officially being observed today).
By Air Force Sgt. James Sherman
I’m going to tell you all about my junk. Yes … my junk. The who, the where, and most importantly … the what. You see, at the beginning of my adult life, I served in the United States Air Force. (So) my first piece of junk is my beret. During my 10-year stretch, I traveled all over the world from Japan to Iraq. I even earned two commendations — one from the Army, and one from the Air Force. My decorations are real, baby, no “America’s Got Talent” fakes here. I was a criminal investigator. My job was to support the Air Force mission to fly, fight, and win.
My next piece of junk is something that stemmed from my years of law enforcement … my handcuffs. They got a lot of work over the years. Stainless steel, well-oiled devices of human pacification. I didn’t use these by themselves, or else we’d be talking about a different piece of junk. They became as much a part of me as my other piece of junk.
This (next) piece of junk has been a part of my life since the beginning … before I learned to fly, fight, and win. Before I earned my medals, “I had an enemy lying in wait” — one that couldn’t be interrogated, couldn’t be fired on or reasoned with. “Charcot-Marie-Tooth” is my enemy. An enemy that destroys muscles, that cripples both men and women. It eats dreams, turns hope into fear, turns pride into solitude. From this enemy there’s no mercy, no relief… and no cure.
How do you tell a man whose built his life on standing for those in need, against those who do harm, is not the man he used to be? Tell him career is over because he can’t run very fast, that he’s a liability in the field, and can’t lead his men anymore. That his newest piece of junk — his leg braces — are going to sound like he’s hiding balloons in his pants, and is going to lead to all sorts of new sexual experiences with airport security.
How do you tell someone that? My newest piece of junk came with shame, doubt and fear those were the things I was to run with now instead of my formation… Rather, I wasn’t running much at all anymore.
I tell you what… quitting would have been easy. It would have been, if I didn’t have all this other “junk”: Friends, family, successes and failures … They all ride with me, and I can’t just leave bits and pieces behind because I got some new junk. No … not this time. No one’s going to tell me I need to quit, no one’s going to tell me, “Sergeant you just can’t.” This time, if you want me, you’re going to have to come get me. After all, I have a responsibility to my friends, family and country that I have to complete.
So I encourage you, the next time your heart hurts or someone tells you, “impossible” … Just pull your junk out and put it on the table for you — and the world to see._______________________Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of inherited disorders of the peripheral nervous system characterised by progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body. Currently incurable, this disease is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders affecting approximately 1 in 2,500 people, equating to approximately 23,000 people in the United Kingdom and 125,000 people in the U.S.