Soldier overcomes disabilities to fulfill his dream

| October 22, 2014 | 0 Comments
Pvt. Jerall Washington studies a few maps to ensure the spacing and placement of grid lines is accurate after an interview about receiving a phone call from the Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh. On Oct. 17, 2014, the McHugh called and congratulated Washington on overcoming his impairments of severe eyesight and hearing loss and his successful enlistment in the Army. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew G. Ryan, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Pvt. Jerall Washington studies a few maps to ensure the spacing and placement of grid lines is accurate after an interview about receiving a phone call from the Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh. On Oct. 17, 2014, the McHugh called and congratulated Washington on overcoming his impairments of severe eyesight and hearing loss and his successful enlistment in the Army. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew G. Ryan, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Staff Sgt. Matthew Ryan, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — “It has always been a dream of mine to join the Army, but until recently it was never really an option. At one point I was declared legally blind,” said Pvt. Jerall Washington.

On Oct. 17, 2014, the Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh, called and congratulated Pvt. Washington on overcoming his impairments and his successful enlistment in the Army.

“I received a phone from the Secretary of the Army,” said Washington, a native of Orlando, Florida. “He congratulated me on joining the Army even though I had disabilities before joining.

“I know that I always wanted to be an engineer when I joined,” said the geospatial engineer, assigned to Intelligence and Surveillance Company, 25th Infantry Division.

Washington and his family have also been invited to meet the Secretary of the Army and attend a tour of the White House during his Christmas leave.

Washington was born with severe impairment of both his eyesight and hearing, resulting in attending the Florida School for the Blind and Deaf for six years before entering into the Army.

“My biggest challenge was sacrificing the things that I loved, like playing sports and certain classes in school,” he said. “I couldn’t play them my senior year, because my focus was improving my life and joining the Army. I just wanted to be normal.

“I really appreciate the doctors at the school who were willing to help me pursue my dream of joining the Army,” he added.

He said the doctors recommended him to wear eye patches and not listen to any music or be around loud noises to allow time for his body to self-heal.

“I didn’t listen to music for a year, and wore eye patches for four months, 6-8 hours a day, in order to allow time for them to heal,” he said. “I noticed more and more I didn’t listen to music, the better my hearing got. My eyes started to become better after the first month of wearing the patches.”

Washington describes his best birthday so far was his 18th birthday when he was finally able to be sworn into the Army.

“I was very excited and it was the best birthday present,” he said. “It was hard to believe at first.”

He said it really didn’t hit him until afterwards that it all had come true.

Washington said basic training wasn’t harder for him than anyone else. It was just another step to overcome to his dream.

Now in the Army and progressing through his career, he says he looks to his future and making it a long career in the Army.

One of his short-term goals is to become Air Assault qualified here at Schofield Barracks, and he has many long-term goals while in the Army.

“Every morning I wake up and look at a hat with sergeant first class rank sewn on it to remind me that is where I want to be someday before I get out of the Army,” Washington said.

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