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Heart to Heart

Driven by Purpose

How Shea C. Megale is striving to make a difference in the world through politics, writing, and a drive to make the world a better place.

Shea Megale believes in living with purpose. 

Already an established author, Megale, 28, will graduate in May with two master’s degrees from Georgetown University and is writing legislation that would allow people with disabilities to serve in the military. 

“The bill is intended to allow skilled and educated people with physical disabilities to serve active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Megale says, describing the bill. “The disabled community is an untargeted group of people who are statistically extremely motivated to work; they want to prove you wrong and are usually educated in non-kinetic ways that can contribute to national defense. 

“Technology allows us to have unmanned aircraft, drones, and electronic warfare,” Megale continues. “[People with disabilities] could be administrators, social media experts, recruiters, psychiatrists, chaplains, engineers—the list goes on and on. Different branches [of the military] have different needs, and the bill envisions how people with physical disabilities can serve in those branches and start to adjust the culture of the military to make room for different definitions of ‘soldier.’”  

Megale gained support for the legislation and has shared it with the office of U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, serving Virginia’s 11th congressional district. His office is currently creating their version of the bill to introduce in the House of Representatives. 

As the grandchild of a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, Megale has always felt a desire to serve in uniform. Megale, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 2 and uses a wheelchair for mobility, hopes to see the bill become reality in order to achieve that goal. 

“I’m 28 right now, and the oldest you can be to join any of the branches of the military is in the Navy,” Megale says. “You can commission at 42 in the Navy. So I have a little over 10 years to change the law, and I think there’s a pretty high possibility of that happening.” 

Megale, who hopes to work in leadership and politics in the future, is already preparing for that goal at Georgetown University. With two master’s degrees–one in history and the second in foreign service–and with a current position as a flotilla commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, those ambitions seem within reach. Megale says that the desire to serve—be it in the military or behind a podium—is fueled by a genuine love for others and wanting to contribute to humanity to make a difference. 

“I genuinely care about people and I like providing for them,” Megale says. “I need help getting dressed, I need help showering and cooking. So there’s this tension between that regular receiving of assistance and me wanting to be the one giving. I see leadership as an avenue for me to be able to give back.” 

It’s a passion Megale can’t turn off. There are opportunities for change everywhere, Megale says, even in equipment failure. 

“For professionals, repairs can’t wait sometimes,” Megale says. “We want to be mainstream and be able to participate in society the way that other people can. I would like my life and my use of this equipment to be an example of that.”

“My life is a case study of how [CRT equipment] is used for more than going from the kitchen to the bedroom or even from the car to the doctor’s office or the classroom,” Megale continues. “I go all around the world in my wheelchair.” 

In fact, last September, when Megale had an important meeting at the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer regarding the bill Megale is trying to get passed, the NSM team at Springfield, Virginia, rose to embody that standard. Lorrie, Max, Norman, Matthew, Keith, and Glenn at that location went above and beyond to find parts to repair Megale’s chair hours before the big meeting.  

When Megale isn’t advocating for change through  politics, writing books takes precedent. Megale wrote the first of nearly a dozen novels at the age of 15 and was first published at only 23. That young adult novel, This Is Not A Love Scene, published by Macmillian, features a character who uses a motorized wheelchair and a love interest who does not.

“That’s a very rare thing,” Megale says of the book’s plot. “The only other example I know of is You Before Me, and in that case the character kills himself because he’s so sad about being in a wheelchair. There’s a scene in my book that sort of critiques it in a parody of that film.” 

Since then, Megale has written several more books, about one a year, across a wide variety of genres, including science fiction and fantasy, a couple of children’s books focused on Megale’s past and present service dogs, Mercer and Pierre II, and a biography of Matthew, Megale’s older brother, designed to bring attention to the opioid crisis. 

“My brother tragically died of an opioid overdose in 2017,” Megale says. “He was addicted for 10 years, went through many different rehabs and prisons. We did everything we could for him, and addiction still took him. It’s a very raw biography, told through my eyes, watching him go through it. Now, I think of his name in everything I do.” 

After graduate school, Megale hopes to give writing more attention. Whatever the future holds, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll see this Megale working somewhere to make the world a better place. 
“My desire to give back, to provide, and be needed is what drives me,” Megale says. “I think one of the desires that hasn’t really been identified for people with disabilities is the desire to be counted on, to be the one person in the room that someone needs, or even the only one who can do something. People with disabilities don’t often have that moment because many perceive the needs of the world to be strictly tied to physical capability. They’re not. The world needs so much more. And people like me want and are ready to rise up to fulfill them.”

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