We get a lot of emails from a wide variety of folks with diabetes, but when we received an email from a newly diagnosed Marine, we knew we needed to find out more about this guy! Nick Lozar is a captain currently stationed in Quantico, VA, where he lives with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. It was while stationed in Virginia that he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 2009, and recently joined the ranks of insulin pumpers.
This year, Nick will be back on active duty with the Marines. After hearing about the troubles PWDs have serving with our country's Armed Forces, we wanted to find out how Nick managed it. We'll let him take it from here...
A Guest Post by Nick Lozar, US Marine
The United States Marine Corps. The few. The proud. The diabetic? Ten years ago when I swore an oath to protect the nation in any clime and place, I would never have thought that acute onset type 1 diabetes would be a battle for which I would have to prepare. Nevertheless, on October 23, 2009, the unthinkable occurred as I walked into the emergency room at Dewitt Army Hospital in Fort Belvoir, VA, with a random glucose of 361. Every day since that day has been its own new adventure.
Upon learning that I was now a person with diabetes, my first thought was that my career as a Marine was over. This was further solidified by the fact that almost every medical professional I spoke with initially advised me to start preparing for medical retirement and life after the Marine Corps. At only 10 years of service, and with no desire to end my active career, I chose the path of most resistance — the path back to full active duty.
The first step in this fight was the medical board process, which, while a concise and thorough process, is not exactly a rapid one. The time between diagnosis and my return to full active duty was just shy of 11 months. During this process, I encountered many people who simply assumed that I was finished in the Marines.
Most people I talked to automatically grouped me in with their frail, diabetic grandparents, and just assumed that I could not continue with my service, let alone deploy. The typical conversation would go something like this:
Them: "Man, too bad about getting diabetes. Will you have to get out?"
Me: "Hopefully, no. It looks good on me being found fit for duty."
Them: "But you can't deploy."
Me: "Why not?"
Them: "Oh...can you?"
I think I had that conversation at least 15 times.
These naysayers (while speaking with my, and the Naval Service's, best interests at heart) would eventually be silenced as I was found Fit for Continued Active Service, and then Fit for Full Duty by the Marine Corps. This did not come without effort, as I sought the recommendation of numerous senior officers and physicians who were willing to put their names on the line for me, as well as scores of other people serving as resources, who were able to triumph despite the odds and misconceptions of the condition.
Numerous individuals, from Soldiers and Marines to Ironman athletes, gave me insight and hope that I was not fighting a losing battle, but rather an uphill climb. I was lucky to have a civilian physician at Bethesda, MD, who was willing to back me up on staying in. My previous physician just assumed I would not be found fit, so I found a doctor who would support my efforts. Most senior officers whom I sought out for references had no issue with supporting me once I laid out the facts on my condition, treatment, and overall scenario.
Now that I have joined the ranks of the insulin-dependent, I look back on my career as a logistician and realize that my occupational field is a significant reason for my retention. As a logistician and a senior captain, my duties both home and abroad will settle me in a situation where I do not fear lows or other issues associated with type 1.
Logistics, in the civilian wold, is called supply-chain management. It involves acquiring and moving gear from the warehouse to the warfighter, both at home and abroad. Had I been an infantry officer or an aviator, my chances of being able to fulfill my duties would have been inconceivable, and I would have gladly separated from the Marine Corps. Since I am not of a combat arms specialty, I hold no fear that I cannot fulfill my duties, or that I pose any threat or liability to my fellow Marines.
I now stand ready to return to the operating forces as a Marine, as well as a diabetic (I don't mind the label, I actually prefer it). The misconceptions around diabetes that span from severe to ridiculous confront me at every turn, but I have been able to blast through them thus far and I will continue to fight them — for my own career and to pave the way for those who may follow me. In addition, I will use my time in service to share my knowledge with peers and senior leaders to better educate them that diabetes is not a disability.
Way to go, Nick! Stay safe and keep educating!