PORTLAND, Ore.—Jared Guinther is 18. Tall and lanky, he will graduate from high school in June. Girls think he’s cute, until they try to talk to him and he stammers or just stands there—silent.
Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won’t talk to people unless they address him first. It’s hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.
Jared didn’t know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall—shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Portland strip mall and complimented his black Converse All-Stars.
“When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, `Well, that isn’t going to happen,”’ said Paul Guinther, Jared’s father. “I told my wife not to worry about it. They’re not going to take anybody in the service who’s autistic.”
But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he had not only enlisted, but signed up for the Army’s most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.