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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Before you finish reading this article, you may become disabled and join the only minority group that one isn't necessarily born into. 

A tiny clot may strike your brain or lung and forever change you. Will you still be the same person you were before being striken? The answer is a resounding yes! You will remain the person who deserves respect, affection, appreciation and love. You will have simply joined the over 33 million others in America who joined your minority group through accident injury, disease or war. 

We have over 2.5 million veterans receiving compensation and, unfortunately, the number continues to grow. I personally know of a retired major general who went from perfect health to fighting for his life with a brain injury because he was bitten by insects and his body chemistry reacted adversely. He fell to his bedroom floor and became disabled for months. Joyfully, he has regained full health. I also know a young staff sergeant who is still fighting to regain the ability to move his lower body after striking his head on the bottom of the Choctawhatchee Bay after diving from a boat. Neither of these men planned to become disabled and neither of them are less than they were. The human spirit transcends their physical health. The same is true for all of us even though we may not currently be disabled. A second in time may change our health, but not our potential.

The disabled walk, wheel or run among us in our communities every day. We are so delighted and blessed to have them working on Duke, Eglin and Hurlburt. Without them, our mission could not be accomplished. They are designing weapons in our Air Force Research Lab. They are leading our multiple award winning food service contracts. They are in our backshops, admin shops and command posts. 

Sure, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month by Presidential Proclamation, but one doesn't need a Presidential Proclamation on Hurlburt, Duke or Eglin to appreciate the profound impact of our terrific people who happen to have a disability. You will pass people today in your hallway or roadway who are disabled. Perhaps they may not hear you so well when you speak--lean into them as they lean into you. Perhaps they will labor on the stairs--provide simple courtesies such as a door held open or a pause in your own step. Perhaps they will struggle for a word or phrase--patience is indeed a virtue of those blessed with full health. Perhaps their chair may not fit under the table or through the crowd--raise the table and spread the crowd. A potential employee comes through your door--see the potential not the disability.

If you aren't currently a member of the disabled minority group, celebrate your health for you may not have it tomorrow. If you are currently a member of the disabled minority, know that we treasure you and your work.