The Parade Toward Independence (photo is of Jannette's family)
I was born and raised in Washington and every Fourth of July has shared one commonality: the Steilacoom parade. Steilacoom is a small town that played host to military families for many years. As a civilian employee (at Fort Lewis), and Ms. Wheelchair Washington 2009, this year’s Independence Day parade held special significance for me. I sat on the sidewalk and observed Soldiers and Families from Fort Lewis’ I Corp, proudly presenting the colors and honoring the Prisoners of War who rode in decorated Hummer behind them. A wave of emotion swelled in me as people clapped and cheered. I considered my position. Many of these individuals have approached me; paperwork in hand prepared to travel overseas entrusting friends and family with the care of their beloved children. The Service Members’ sacrifice goes far beyond family separation ultimately represents a plight for independence and freedom. Observing the parade I was struck by something, the multifaceted concept of independence. On July Fourth, it is recognized as the day the United States declared itself a sovereign nation, separate from the United Kingdom’s rule. On any other day, what does independence mean? I believe it represents a profound ideal so intimately tied to our great nation’s history. Many who have proudly served, have returned home wounded not always prepared for the war they would face at home on familiar shores. Numerous men and women struggled for equal rights and opportunities while balancing the impact of life with an acquired disability. As a community, people living with disabilities have made profound progress thanks in part to our tireless veterans.
In closing, I offer up another view drastically different definition of independence. If you are reading this entry, may I ask you a question: have you been watching the parade of life pass you by, enjoying the accomplishments and accolades of others? Or, have you boldly joined in, awaiting a bright hope and purpose? Living with Cerebral Palsy has challenged my thought process and ultimately my personal concept of independence. The most profound obstacle I have faced has always had its inception in the confines of my mind. I frequently doubted my own potential because I gazed only the present obstacle not daring to look into the powerhouse of my untold, miraculous independence story.Whether you are able bodied or live with a physical disability may I challenge you to grasp life’s potential beyond the obstacles you face. Be so bold as to join the parade. A parade that finds it’s culmination in the avenues and byways of tomorrow. Take action by challenging the personal thoughts and practices that have for so long kept your fingertips from taking hold of something greater. Join in and press forward, if you need a little encouragement; look beside you. There are so many clapping and cheering you on; including me. Although it is a little late, I wish you a Happy and Independence Day and more importantly a joyful and fulfilling life. Come join me, life is waiting for you!
Jannette Saxton,Ms. Wheelchair WA 2009