Naval Sea Cadet with hearing disability is realizing dream
Spencer Parker is participating in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets. At first blush, that may not seem like a big deal…but he is totally deaf.
“I was extremely excited to become a part of the sea cadets and make the unit with everyone. I want to be challenged,” Parker signed as his sister Kenzie Mayfield interpreted.
It literally has taken a village to – after a year and a half – allow the 17-year-old Avon youngster to become a part of the local Arleigh Burke DDG-51 Division.
The breakthrough came in March 2017 when his 15-year-old brother Preston “P.J.” Anderson joined the unit and became his interpreter. Also instrumental in the effort are his division’s Commanding Officer L.T.J.G. Tami Brown, his mother Tracy Anderson and Indiana Blue Star Program Vice Chairperson Ralph “Zoc” Zoccolillo.
The U.S. Naval Sea Cadets (USNSC) is a fully volunteer mentoring organization for youth ages 10-18 years. It is supported and sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Navy and the Navy League of the United States as well as endorsed by the U.S. Congress.
“Our goal is to instill honor, courage, commitment and respect,” said Brown whose son was also involved in the program.
“I saw what it did for my son. This is the best youth mentoring program out there,” added Brown, who has been the local unit’s volunteer commanding officer for two and a half years.
Not only does the USNSC help young men and women with everyday life, it also provides enlistment upgrades should they enroll in the military as well as the potential for college scholarships. Cadets receive actual military training (with no requirement to enroll) and can attend seven-to10-day military boot camps twice a year.
“My goal is to be able to get to boot camp next year,” Parker said.
And with the progress he is making, that is a reasonable objective, Brown said.
“He needs to be able to recognize orders,” she explained, adding that his brother may not be in the same boot camp group with him. So the two brothers are participating together in the prerequisite drills and writing lessons in order to get Parker to that point.
“He has caught on really quickly too,” Brown said. “Where there is a will, there is a way. If you want it badly enough, you make it happen. He wants it badly enough,” she added.
But it isn’t just Parker and Anderson who are benefitting. According to Brown, both brothers are the “class clowns” and the other cadets are enjoying their participation as well. One fellow cadet said she intends to take sign language classes so she may better communicate with Parker. The entire unit also has learned cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid, which Brown said has helped educate her, especially since Parker also is diabetic.
So why is Parker so interested in the USNSC? He attributes it to his older brother Charlie Mayfield, who is a combat medic in the U.S. Army. And because her eldest son is in the military, Tracy Anderson has been a volunteer for the Indiana Blue Star Program where she met Zoccolillo. “Zoc” tried for several months to secure volunteer interpreters for Parker so that he may participate in USNSC…and then P.J. decided to be his brother’s “ears.”
“I applaud Spencer (Parker) and Preston (Anderson) for opening up so many avenues to others,” said Zoccolillo. “That is the story…they never gave up,” he added.
Parker confirmed, “I want people to see me as a person, not a disability. When I trust in myself, I can do it.”
For more information about the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, visit www.seacadets.org or call the local unit at (317) 446-8889. The local organization, a 501(c)3 non-profit, is also supported by donations at gofundme.com/us-naval-sea-cadets-2018-at-trip.
For more information about the Indiana Blue Star Program, visit www.indianabluestar.org.
Story and photo by Becky Schroer