SOLDIERING ON: Sgt. Refuses Medical Retirement Before 100 Percent

FORT BRAGG, N.C. ­— Sgt. Steve Garner, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, has declined an offer of medical retirement at 70 percent for his injuries, insisting that he will serve until his disability rating reaches 100 percent.

“There are so many quitters out there, you know?” Garner mused while cleaning his loaded rifle. “A 70 percent rating shows a 70 percent commitment. I told the doc, 'The Army has paid me for 100 percent and by God they will get it all.' As will I."

"I won’t rest until the mission is complete and I can't work another day in my life.”

Garner’s military care physician, Dr. Sonya Reyes, has tried to persuade Garner to end his service immediately. “His sleep apnea, tinnitus, and fibromyalgia aren’t getting any worse with continued service, so he’s going to need an entirely new injury. Besides, as the gatekeeper of government funds, it’s my job to see to it that no soldier gets more compensation than they force me to get for them.”

To Garner, disabilities are not an indicator of what a soldier can still do. “I am a firm believer that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it," Garner says. "I won’t rest on past victories. I won’t let the disabilities of the past hold me back from the disabilities of the future.”

Despite his current problems, Garner has made himself useful every day of his career. He was recently seen cleaning the roof and washing the windows of the five-story FORSCOM building, despite a lack of proper equipment.

“I gotta keep my eye on the prize, partial blindness be damned. I volunteer for every jump, every detail, and every deployment. A friend of mine just got 100 percent for combat PTSD and severe alcoholism. He’ll never have to lift a finger again, unless that finger is on the hand he uses to raise a glass of liquor in a toast to the hard work and determination that got him where he is. If that’s not the dream, I don’t know what is.”