Of Course There Can Be Beauty with Tragedy
There was a “beauty” to the disabled world that was far ahead of the able bodied world, especially in the post-WWII and Korean War era. The EPVA (Eastern Paralyzed Veterans) was remarkable for its diversity. Race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, all took a backseat to “access,” dignity and research. Junius Kellogg was a lifelong EPVA Board Member. In time, EPVA evolved into the United Spinal Association to expand its mission and influence.
One of the EPVA early champions (a man honored by presidents and others of influence) was membership officer, EPVA Vice President Carlos Rodriguez, a Korean War Vet. Here is a bit from an article on his life:
“Working with EPVA’s Don Broderick, Rodriguez helped expose the deplorable conditions SCI [Spinal Injury] patients endured at the Bronx VA Medical Center. Hearing that a Life magazine reporter inquired about the conditions at VA SCI wards, then PVA Vice President Rodriguez knew a story was waiting to go public. He called Broderick, who telephoned Life. The total neglect article, focused national attention on the VA system and was instrumental in establishing a separate SCI system within the department. The story also put PVA on the front page as a veterans’ service organization.” (Note: article printed in 1971)
There is a strong connection here to Junius Kellogg.
Junius was an EPVA Board Member who knew exactly what was going on with the expose. However, Junius was by then working for NYC government. It put him in a tough position. He was prohibited from lobbying. He couldn’t have his name associated with the article in any way. At that time, Life had a circulation in excess of 5 million. Any remote connection with Junius and the article probably would have ended his career. Junius had been a patient at the Bronx VA Medical Center; he knew exactly what was taking place in the rat and garbage infested wards.
Interestingly, Junius had another wheelchair coaching gig after he left the Pan Am Jets. For a couple of years he coached the Brooklyn Whirlaways. One of the athletes was Carlos Rodriguez. Rodriguez became very involved in transforming wheelchair sports into now, what has become known as adaptive sports. Both Junius and Carlos made a major impact into how society (at least some of it) views those with spinal injuries.
The greatest beauty has been in the fight; of people who never gave up.