WEST BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)– With Monday marking Memorial Day, many are thinking about families who have a history of military tradition as an honor and an obligation.
That’s the case for one Long Island family, and they are now fighting for the right for a son to one day serve.
Giggles come easy for Russell McCarthy, a playful 3-year-old. But some things later in life may not, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported..
Russell was born early with a mild case of Cerebral Palsy and wears a leg brace at night to correct a limp. Doctors say one day with therapy, the case will be undetectable. However, the diagnosis will remain on medical records, potentially disqualifying him from following in family footsteps.
The McCarthy family of West Babylon has a proud history of service.
“It means a lot not to take, but to serve and give back,” father Daniel McCarthy said.
They’re trying to convince officials that CP should not automatically disqualify someone from the Armed Forces, lobbying elected officials to sign a pledge.
“At least give him the chance, he could be the next general. He could be a great leader one day,” McCarthy said.
The Department of Defense said “CP is not specifically listed as a disqualifying condition,” but ” individuals could be disqualified for service.”
But John Quinn said he has yet to find someone with CP allowed to take the physical. The retired naval SEAL hid his CP diagnosis for 20 years.
“If the military is saying we allow entry, but on a case-to-case basis, that sounds good — but I don’t believe that to be happening,” Quinn said.
Cerebral Palsy is not progressive and differs with each case.
“Everybody in life deserves options and to have the choice and if they were told ‘no’ automatically because they were labeled with CP that’s not fair,” mother Jessica McCarthy said.
Asked why they are launching this effort so soon, the McCarthys said it may take years and if they wait until Russell is 18, it could be too late.
A Department of Defense spokesperson says each service can waive a disqualification if, in the opinion of the service, the candidate is able to perform the physical and mental requirements required and the condition doesn’t constitute operational risk. There is no consideration being given to amending these standards.