I joined the Army at age 19 influenced by my Uncle Kelly, who was serving in the Air Force. He said go part time first; if you like it go full time. I enjoyed the training, discipline and camaraderie. Meeting people from all walks of life and all types of life experiences. In uniform we were brothers instantly. Sometimes outside of uniform we gravitate to either those that we relate to or those who bond with fresh new relationships; for me, color of skin never played a part and the making of new friends for me was priceless.
The training was intense at first and I didn’t see how it was impacting me. The fears turned into mental toughness. You paid attention to the training realizing that this will save your life and for sure the person next to you when it’s that time for war.
I did end up going Active Duty in 1994 as a Supply Sergeant at an E-4 pay grade. This is where my level of responsibility increased, being responsible for the lives of those soldiers and tracking everything from a pen to a tank. Accountability strengthened and leadership developed and at pay grade E-5 I lost who Farron was and became Sergeant Farron Dozier, proud.
I ended up with three Military Occupational Skills in the Army and traveled the United States and places like Norway and Germany.
Then one morning in 2006 at my Master Sergeant school I finished the Army Physical Fitness Test Two-Mile Run and I collapsed. Deemed at the time to be dehydration, I ended up spending four days on IVs due to a condition called rhabdomyolysis, causing muscle, joint and kidney damage. All that mental toughness, responsibility and accountability came into play as I now took on a battle for my health.
“You train for battle for years to defend our country from both foreign and domestic enemies, then 17 years later one morning you find yourself battling a foreign condition like sickle cell trait. Farron Dozier, SFC, U.S. Army Disabled Veteran, served 24 years.
In 2009 I was told that the injuries I suffered were career-ending and I was no longer fit for duty. All the training, mental toughness and camaraderie was gone. I found myself in depression and alone, ready to die because I told myself my life was over.
It wasn’t until a conversation I had with an officer friend that I served with during war in 2004. I saw him again in 2010 on the base. By now I was depressed and my physical pain has taken a turn for the worse and I could barely walk.
Our conversation turned into who I am today after 24 years of service. He mentioned he had muscle issues and he carried a gene called sickle cell trait.
At that moment I remembered that in 1996 when I did my second Army physical, I was told that I was a sickle cell trait carrier. I had no idea and was not told about the possible health issues that could manifest later.
After getting the test results from 1999 and taking those papers to my rheumatologist, she retested me again and yes, another positive sickle cell trait test. From there we were able to determine that the complications in 2006 were connected to me being a carrier of this inherited gene.
In 2013, I did get a medical retirement and all my benefits and more so I got a new future. Remember when I said my life was over?
Well, today I have become an advocate for sickle cell trait, sickle cell disorder, Thalassemia Trait and other conditions like lupus that some people don’t know they have or don’t know the dangers of related health complications.
I know that the Army training and my life experiences have allowed me to find my purpose in life as I can relate to veterans and people living with chronic illnesses.
As we mobilize our troops for war I now get to mobilize a community of people who battle their health conditions. Our foundation is called WHATZ DA COUNT on Sickle Cell Trait Prevention. WDCONSCT.org
An African American Veteran
When I hear the word Veteran, to me that word has been desensitized. People don’t understand that we are human beings, that there is a mother or father or children or aunts and uncles attached to who we are as service members.
As a black veteran serving 24 years I can only speak from my view. The biggest question I got was how can you serve in this white man’s army? What I do is I take a deep breath and I assess who asking the question, a family member or a stranger off the street. My answer will always remain the same. The opportunity and the accomplishments of who I got to be and more so having three daughters with paid education and paid to go to school. What can I say, it was a job. It’s not just a white man’s army even though we as blacks make up 21.5 % of the U.S. Army and 17.8 over the entire armed forces. There are many nationalities in the service defined as minorities.
Being a black leader and 3rd in charge of my unit making critical decisions, being analytical and creating training plans and mobilization there was no color only a life with family members attached to them.
Yes, I had my black soldiers ask me for favors and so did everyone else. They knew that I was fair to who ever came to me. Is there prejudice? Yes all over the world. Did I see any? Well yes, I have felt that a few time, yet it doesn’t out shine my great times. You have to be able to self reflect and be one hundred percent responsible for your actions and those actions only.
What I really care for are the Veterans who are out of service. See you get treated one way in uniform and then another way out of uniform. So making sure my fellow black veterans apply for their benefits and don’t give up on healthcare especially if it’s service connected. Not everyone is entitled to benefits.
For me, I thank every soldier I meet who is older than me and who came before me for paving the way which allowed me to accomplish my goals in life through serving this country. Hey my daughters are proud so that’s all that matters.
By: Farron Dozier, SFC Retired US Army. Executive Dir. for WHATZ DA COUNT Sickle Cell Trait Prevention