By: Mason Latimer
Growing up as the son of a retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran has made my life different than others, but also growing up with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy continued to push that bar. In order to thrive in the world, I’ve learned that the best way to go through life is to constantly adapt to new situations as a they present themselves.
Since my dad was a Marine, we had to move to many different towns and were always adapting to a new home and a new community. I was born in Oregon, then we moved to Temecula, California and then to 29 Palms, California. While in California, we discovered that I have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy: a neuromuscular disease that caused me to get progressively weaker over time, to the point where I now require a wheelchair for most of my life. After this discovery, we moved to the Quantico Virginia Marine Corps Base where there were many different medical trials and research resources about my condition that would help me become better adapted to the transition of being “different.”
When my dad retired from the Corps in 2005, we moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia and I had to adapt to going to a public school that didn’t have the same camaraderie and structure like going to a DoD school. Kids behaved differently, it was more difficult to make friends and there also wasn’t as much structure as I had been accustomed to – so, again, I had to adapt.
In middle school, I really began feeling the effects of my disease and had to start transitioning to being in a wheelchair permanently after I had broken many bones from falling. From that point on, I had to adapt to not being able to get in certain buildings, vehicles, not being physically active or being able to participate in many social situations.
To learn more about my disease and to help myself adapt to my situation, I went to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) summer camp near the Chesapeake Bay, which will always be the highlight of that summer – despite staying in non-air-conditioned cabins named after birds. It’s a weeklong camp where people ages 6 to 21 years old with different forms of Muscular Dystrophy can get away from their parents and give their parents a break in turn. This wonderful camp helped me learn how to drive my wheelchair with precision, due to the traffic of being around so many other power wheelchairs. I got to build a sense of camaraderie with the people at the camp that were dealing with many of the same hardships that I was facing, or that I was going to face in the future.
Through all the hardships of life, I have been able to adapt and overcome every obstacle that I have faced to excel in high school, pay for University of Mary Washington with numerous scholarships and set myself up for success with my goals for the future.
Now, I will continue to adapt to my diseases’ progression and will adapt to life after school, starting with my internship at ScoutComms: a great, accommodating place to work in that makes me feel the same camaraderie as my DoD school and MDA camp, and that helps my military family – which has helped me become the person that I am today.