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Deaf in the Military:

Christopher Black
3/27/2008

Life and Deaf in the Military

Enrollment in the U.S. Military is at an all time low. Citizens are aware that in signing a contract with the armed forces, they are also liable to be called up in the future and forced back into uniform. America has always been prone to war-weariness, and once a conflict has grown unfashionable, enlistment cuts off. To counteract the low enlistment rates, many provisions have been made to allow otherwise “unqualified” individuals to join. However, while ex-convicts are now serving in the active military, Deaf and hard of hearing citizens are still denied a place.
Classified as H-4, having severe hearing loss, these individuals are deemed by the military to be too different to accommodate into the existing military life. It has been determined by the military high ups that while those that can't hear can perform every other job in the United States, being a soldier requires that you catch every word being shouted at all times. To the Deaf community this is a form of discrimination that has no place in America, and that if allowed, many of their community would gladly serve (despite the low pay and bad food).

What is odd about American military standards are that they are not on par with those of other modern nations. Israel requires military service out of Deaf citizens just like everyone else, and provides training in sign language to those who could use it. And while American Deafs couldn't join the Army in World War Two, there are many stories circulating about Deaf individuals serving in the German army, some even achieving positions in the SS. And while people now wouldn't think highly about anyone serving in the SS, it makes sense that anyone in that particular service was visible enough that they couldn't simply hide their state of deafness from their officers, thus it must have been accepted by the military structure.

There is no reason as far as I can tell to continue to deny the enlistment, or drafting, of Deaf and hard of hearing people from the military. Any important orders issued from an officer to a soldier are usually done face to face, and lip reading is therefore utilized. A drill sergeant chewing out a trainee is most definitely communicated with close proximity of faces, and thus H-4's could understand and quake in fear just like everyone else. Any order shouted to a group of soldiers that wasn't lip-read could be comprehended quickly based on the actions of fellow soldiers, or at least emulated. Even in the situation that a Deaf soldier was being shot at, he may not hear the bullets but its not like you can dodge bullets anyways. If the first volley hit the said soldier, he would definitely know it, and if not hit could figure out very quickly based on the ducking and scrambling motions of other soldiers.

In this day and age, it is simple stupidity to think that the Deaf and hard of hearing can't be useful soldiers. Yet the continued efforts of the Deaf community for admittance into the United States Armed Forces seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Sources:

Warnow, Morton. The Deaf in the Military. Modern Deaf Communication, Inc. Retrieved 27, March. 2008: http://www.danbury.org/moderndeafcommunication/deaf_in_military.htm

Feldman, Shane. (2007, Feb. 15). Deaf Soldiers. Deaf DC.com Retrieved 27, March. 2008: http://www.deafdc.com/blog/shane-feldman/2007-02-15/deaf-soldiers/

Eric Malzkuhn: Military Service. Deaf People + WW2. National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Retrieved 12, Feb. 2001:http://www.rit.edu/~deafww2/

 


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