One of my goals in life is to write a novel. To achieve this goal, I need to increase my reading time, or at least that is what my mom tells me! My cerebral palsy and visual perception deficit make reading a standard book difficult for me. My solution…audiobooks! I put my Amazon Echo to good use every morning, listening to an audiobook while I eat breakfast. I just finished reading or listening to the autobiography, Someone Like Me by John W. Quinn. I found this autobiography to be very inspirational and wanted to share with my readers.
From an early age, John Quinn had a dream. He wanted to serve in the Navy. John Quinn also had a secret that could prevent him from achieving this dream. He had cerebral palsy. As a result of cerebral palsy, John Quinn was partially paralyzed, had one foot significantly smaller than the other and did not walk until the age of four. Someone Like Me is John Quinn’s story of overcoming the obstacle of a hidden physical disability to achieve a successful Navy career.
Someone Like Me takes you on a journey from his childhood, his parent’s decision to keep his cerebral palsy a secret and his career in the Navy. Initially, it was hard to identify with the decision to hide John Quinn’s disability. I was brought up to embrace everything about myself, including my disability. However, as the story unfolded it was clear his parent’s decision was made out of love and the desire to protect their son. Keeping this secret worked in John Quinn’s benefit throughout his life. He attended public school, played sports and aspired to join the Navy.
When John Quinn initially signed up, he failed the physical. Most would have walked away from this dream at that point. However, this only made John Quinn work harder. In 1982, after a year of working out and physical training, he passed the Navy physical and realized his dream. After a few weeks in boot camp, he broke his foot as a result of an untreated infection. The doctor and his superiors thought this injury would be career ending, and served him with discharge papers. He thought about this, called his Dad for support, and then said an emphatic no. Little did he know, this would be the least of his demons throughout his twenty-year military career, as he would eventually battle alcoholism, his brother’s suicide, the death of his parents, and much more. There was a light at the end of this tunnel however, in that he learns to come out of his shell. He also gains motivation by proving to all his doubters that he could do anything he sets his mind to.
Despite the rough start, John Quinn went on to have a very successful Navy career. He gained respect from those he served with and achieved multiple military decorations, including four Navy Commendation Medals, four Navy Achievement Medals and a Joint Service Achievement Medal. He traveled around the world, serving on carriers, battleships and destroyers, all the while continuing to struggle silently with the pain and physical constraints that come with cerebral palsy. John Quinn may not have had the physical capabilities to be a Navy Seal, but his hard work and dedication lead him to be a founding member of SEAL Team THREE.
Some people may be critical of John Quinn’s decision to lie to the Navy about his disability. John Quinn explains, “I would have loved to have told the truth to the recruiter from the very beginning. If I had done that, I believed the door would have been slammed in my face. So, I kept my condition secret in order to give myself the opportunity to show what I could do. That’s what inclusion does for people with disabilities. It opens the door of opportunity so that a person can put their ability on display – not their disability.” The American Disabilities Act was not passed into law until 1990. John Quinn was not protected from discrimination. I truly believe John Quinn would have be prohibited from serving his country had he been honest. Based on his numerous decorations, this would have been a huge loss for the Navy and our country. I hope Someone Like Me will open doors to everyone who strongly desires to have a military career and is willing to work as hard as John Quinn did to make it happen.
Currently, John Quinn continues to inspire so many. He is an author and motivational speaker! John Quinn speaks about inclusion, bullying, disability awareness and other life challenges. His story motivates and inspires thousands, able-bodied and disabled alike! When he is not speaking, John Quinn stays active by hiking and running marathons!
My only critique of the audio version of Someone Like Me is the narration. Prior to this audiobook, I listened to Zach Anner’s autobiography, If At Birth You Don’t Succeed. I really loved the fact that Zach Anner narrated his own autobiography. It felt like Zach Anner was in my living room, telling me his story. It made it more personable. I would have really liked it if John Quinn did the narration, told his story in his own voice.
I gave Someone Like Me 4 out of 5 stars when rating it on Audibles.com. This book brings to light the obstacles people with disabilities, even mild disabilities, have in achieving dreams and goals. Sometimes doors are shut before we are even given a chance. Although the ADA of 1990 has opened more opportunities, there are still doors to be opened. John Quinn’s story allowed me to examine my own life and see how lucky I have been. I was born in a time where my parents and I did not have to hide my disability (not that I could have anyway, considering the trail of holes I leave in walls!)
I highly recommend Someone Like Me to all my readers. I think you will find inspiration to work hard and stay determined to reach your goals. Listening to this book definitely motivated me to work harder!
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’.
Photo and video credit: http://www.johnwquinn.com/home.html (with the permission from John Quinn)
Someone Like Me Audiobook: written John Quinn Narrated by Jim Meskimen
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