The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

-Douglas MacArthur

Growing up with a disability like cerebral palsy can make it difficult to make friends. This applies both to  other people with disabilities and able-bodied people. This is mainly because not everyone is willing to get to know you as as person.

It’s risky when you have a disability to try and make friends.

This is especially true with able-bodied people because they often either pity you or try to take advantage of you and your situation. Since I am differently abled, it’s nice for me to find other friends who are also differently abled. This is because I get to spend time with people who understand what I’m going through. But, when other people see us together, the assumption is “well, she has a disability, so it makes sense for her to be friends with people like her. “

Where Special Friendships Began

After I graduated from high school, I had a difficult time maintaining friendships. Most of my friends moved to college and we drifted apart. The only friends I had were my online friends that I met through cerebral palsy and disability support groups on the internet. It is great to connect with people like you when you have a disability, but I wanted to find people I could relate to in the real world.

After I turned 21, I relocated to a new city to have a new beginning, but once I got there I felt very alone. In order to make friends with the unfamiliar territory, I decided to go to the gas station every morning with my laptop. I would sit at a table with my Macbook Pro and just start writing.

Eventually, my ability to type and write despite the fact that I have cerebral palsy caught the attention of various people. They’d often come up to me and tell me their life stories. However, what caught my attention was the stories of the veterans who served for our lives and liberty. It humbled me that veterans who served this country would want me to hear their stories of how they overcame the challenges of coming back from the war wounded. They would have re-adapt to being back in society. This was something I could relate to with my cerebral palsy.

In our society, having a disability is a tough job.

We deal with a lot of judgment, discrimination, and more. That is something my veteran friends would discuss with me on a day to day basis while drinking a cup of joe. Being able to talk about things and connect with these wonderful people made me feel better about having a disability.

How Friendships Impacted My Life

Building friendships with veterans gave me a whole new perspective on life as a woman with a disability. It lit a fire under me to become a voice for people like me. I remember going to lunch at Gators Sports Bar with war veteran Jimmy Sanders. He brought me lunch and he said to me “Tylia, you’re my hero. I watch your Facebook page Stomping on Cerebral Palsy and It gives me hope when I get angry about my disability and being wheelchair-bound.” In that moment, I cried and didn’t know what to say. I went on a journey to find people that I could relate to and get inspired by people.

As the summer went by, I got to meet people like Mr. Jimmy with who opened up to me about their toughest moments. Little do they know how much they’ve helped me by being my friend. These veterans showed me that no obstacle is too big or too small. No matter what the obstacle is, I have to keep going because there’s always someone who can be impacted by my story in a time of need.

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