Growing up, Cadet Private Keith Nolan knew he wanted to be in the military. After high school he went to enlist, but instead, got three words scribbled on a torn-off sheet of paper:
"Bad ear, disqual."
Nolan, 29 and deaf, has been trying for decades to join the U.S. military. While some of his persistance has paid off -- he's passed the first two levels of ROTC, joining the Bravo Company at California State University -- he's currently prohibited from moving on to level three, he said in a recent TEDx talk.
The TEDx program organizes speakers and shares ideas independently of a regular TED talk, simulating the same idea-sharing at local levels, and is coordinated by local people and interests.
Not settling for another no, Nolan is rallying congress with the help of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to prove he is capable of continuing to serve his country.
"You know, black soldiers couldn't join the army, and now they serve," Nolan said. "Women were banned, now they serve. The military has and is changing. Now its our turn. Today is our time."
Deaf soldiers have served in the military in the past and can currently service in the Israeli Army, Nolan pointed out in his talk. The U.S. military even retains blind soldiers, soldiers deaf in one ear, and amputees for active duty, he said.
"All of this is incredible, but I'm going to ask all of you -- if the U.S. Military can retain their disabled soldiers, then why can't they accept disabled citizens as well?"
Over 80 percent of the military's jobs are noncombat -- mapping, intelligence, finance, medical -- which Nolan points out deaf people are more than qualified for. He's set on working in intelligence, and with the support of those who have heard his story and seen his work ethic, Nolan is well on his way.
"Each morning I get up and put on my uniform, I feel privileged," Nolan said, "It's truly an honor to wear that uniform."
To find out more about how you can help Nolan, visit the Facebook page, or call Rep. Waxman's office at (310) 652-3095.