A new friend of mine asked me last week if I'd be interested in starting up a unit of the "Veteran Reserve Corps". He is confined to a wheel chair and loves American Civil War history, and has wanted to re enact his entire adult life! His Facebook profile shows him wearing a Union bummer cap! Though I too am handicapped, I'm not all that sure that I would like being a Yankee...even a wounded one! Anyhow, before I go any further, I told my friend that I would throw the question out to the forum to get some honest opinion on the subject. He at least deserves that.
First, here's all I know about the VRC: It had a distinctive uniform, though the men hated it because it was not dark blue like the regular units. You could be in it if you had no more than one amputation...some were assigned to it without their consent while recovering to ease manpower shortages. I know that those who could handle a weapon were available for combat, those who could not were used as support personnel at hospitals, supply depots, offices, etc. I know that the units existed and there are photographs of the men and uniforms.
Here's what I don't know: Did any of these guys get into any battles? How were they commanded and organized? How many were there? Where did they serve? And of course many more questions than that.
As far as the ACW community is concerned, there are bigger issues. Even presuming that the wheelchair guys could find authentic period chairs, that the rest could find period correct crutches or artificial limbs, would having large numbers of these guys cause us a greater safety and logistical and authenticity concern? How would the greater mainstream and non-mainstream events use such troops and how would they fit in. Would there be insurance issues? Further, are there enough handicapped guys out there who want to join up to form such a unit? And, the 800 pound gorilla in the room...where do we draw a line...catheters and bags, feeding tubes, oxygen bottles, mental issues, constant care requirements, etc...we can't just empty the asylum!
I have started using my artificial arm this year. It looks real...few can tell it ain't, it improves my overall impression and it has made it easier and safer for me to handle the weapons, and I can load faster too! I function well enough without being in a VRC not to have gotten myself into any trouble so far. Last year I just tied up the empty sleeve and it looked cool and got comments from the crowd, but after trying the fake arm in the field, the prosthetic wins! From this I can suggest that guys with only one amputation can, and do, function in the units we already have. Therefore I could also suggest that the only handicapped who would benefit from this unit would be the wheelchair guys.
Now, at this point, please do not take me as being insensitive to the handicapped! Those who know me know that would not be true. However, using plain words and direct questions in this learned forum will be the best way to get to the core issues. It would be much easier not to form such a unit than to have one show up and see it banned or discriminated against.
What do y'all think?