Jared Guinther is 18....
Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won't talk to people unless they address him first. It's hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.
Jared didn't know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall -- shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Southeast Portland strip mall and complimented him on his black Converse All Stars.
"When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, 'Well, that isn't going to happen,' " said Paul Guinther, Jared's father. "I told my wife not to worry about it. They're not going to take anybody in the service who's autistic."
But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he not only had enlisted, but also had signed up for the Army's most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.
Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared's disability, which should have made him ineligible for service....
But it was all a horrible misunderstanding and the recruiters corrected it as soon as they realized what had gone wrong ... right?
Brenda [Jared's mother] said she spoke to Cpl. Ronan Ansley and explained that Jared had a disability, autism, that could not be outgrown. She said Ansley told her he had been in special classes, too -- for dyslexia.
"I said, 'Wait a minute, there's a big difference between autism and your problem,' " Brenda said....
After learning that Jared had cleared this first hurdle toward enlistment, Brenda said, she called and asked for Ansley's supervisor and got Sgt. Alejandro Velasco.
She said she begged Velasco to review Jared's medical and school records. Brenda said Velasco declined, asserting that he didn't need any paperwork....
"He was real cocky and he says, 'Well, Jared's an 18-year-old man. He doesn't need his mommy to make his decisions for him.' "
Later, a reporter from The Oregonian questions Velasco:
After he had spoken for a few moments, Velasco suddenly grabbed the reporter's tape recorder and tried to tear out the tape, stopping only after the reporter threatened to call the police.
I seem to recall that a man made a movie a couple of years ago in which he claimed that military recruiters have been taking advantage of a lot of kids lately. But then I heard that the man who made the movie was a Very, Very Bad Man and a Very, Very Irresponsible Man, and is fat and disgusting and the worst person in the world.
Which is too bad, because it looks as if this Very, Very Bad Man had a point.