Every weekday leading up to the launch of the Defense Authorization Bill the Servicmembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is running a new media campaign called “Letters from the Frontlines: Letters to President Obama“, which is a collection of open letters from actual servicemembers and their family membes who are affected by the horrendously awful DADT policy. Gay Rights Blogger Michael A. Jones from Change.org is running them, and I would like to share a recent collection of them, some of which I have shared at my Tumblr.
Also, the Senate Armed Services Committee happens to be chaired by my Rock the Casbah senator, Karl Levin. You can find the info for that committee here, if you are so inclined.
I was ousted from the service I loved, facing a recoupment of $13,000 sign-on bonus I received, and ushered to the gate. I felt shunned, broken and confused.
After a year of recovery, I received a letter recalling me back to service. While I didn’t understand why, I had an overwhelming sense of joy to return to the service I so loved.
I was sent to Kuwait for a year with the U.S. Navy Customs Battalion Romeo in 2006 where I continued to garner accolades for my service and even upped in rank, all while serving completely open. My immediate commanders and colleges were aware that I had been discharged once under DADT and knew that I was gay, yet they supported me because I was a great sailor.
The Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) on base, acting without authority, continued her own investigation and convinced the ranking Admiral that regulations mandated that he move to administratively separate me with an “Other Than Honorable” discharge; a move that would result in the loss of my 20+ year retirement.
Acting without the proper authority, she even went over the Admiral’s head and appealed to the Navy’s personnel office, telling them I was taking “sexual liberties” with patients, which she knew was not true.
I wanted to serve my country. Now, I was fighting to not be humiliated by it. At the SJA’s encouragement, the command initiated discharge proceedings. I knew I’d be discharged but my retirement and my livelihood was also on the line.
But everything changed a few months later. A cadet went to my commanders and told them I was gay and dating a fellow cadet. During the investigation that followed I made no comment to the JAG officer conducting the investigation. I was eventually called into my commander’s office and disenrolled from ROTC in August 2002. I received a piece of paper saying I was no longer fit for military duty due to “homosexual conduct.” You can’t even imagine how that feels. Almost 8 years later, I still remember wearing my flight suit for the last time and handing my ID card to the NCO who was trying not to cry.
Mr. President, my unit is extremely undermanned. We’re working around the clock in Baghdad. My commander informed me that the Army cannot afford to lose me. I was told that they would prepare my discharge paperwork, “stick it in a Manila envelope, and keep it in a desk — for now.”
One moment they wanted to throw me out and the next they are hiding evidence to keep me in.
My comrades now know that I am gay, and they do not treat me any differently. Work runs as smoothly as ever, and frankly the only difference I see — besides my pending job loss — is that I am free of the burden of having to constantly watch my words and ensure my lies are believable.
Eventually, the stress of constant fear that I could lose my job no matter how hard I worked or how well I performed, became too much. I knew from the stories of others that even serving to the very best of my ability could cost me my job. I knew that an anonymous tip — by someone who was jealous of my success, angry with me because of a disagreement, or mad because I rebuffed a sexual advance — could trigger a demoralizing, demeaning investigation under DADT. And if I was not willing to lie, I knew an investigation could lead to my discharge.
I was lucky, though. I did not get kicked out, but that does not mean that DADT didn’t affect me. The uncertainty and fear of knowing that anyone with a grudge could end my career, and the sadness in realizing that at any time my country could callously discard me for no other reason than the fact that I was gay, pressured me to give up the career I loved. I chose not to reenlist.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” throws more than just service people into the closet; it throws moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, godparents, friends and loved ones in there as well.
As a mom, my heart breaks for all the gay and lesbian “kids” in the military, and for all the special people in their lives who live with us in the closet.
I dream of actually being able to write to the President, my senators and representatives in the Congress, and actually signing my name, something I can’t do now due to the risk of outing my son.
Serving in Iraq an an Openly Gay Soldier (trigger warning for ableist language)
After an investigation into my statements and the harassment, I was told I was an exceptional Soldier and to “drive on” with my work. It was a great a relief to break the silence. My colleagues suddenly understood why I had always been so detached and began asking me to join them in activities outside of work.
Later that year my division deployed again and I served the entirety of the deployment as an openly gay Soldier. I no longer had to lie if someone asked if I were married or had a girlfriend, I didn’t have to write my emails in “code.” I no longer feared being “outed.” I finally was able to be honest.
As much as I longed to be an officer, I realized I was not willing to compromise my integrity to do so.
Mr. President, I tell you this not looking for sympathy but rather to plead with you to do everything possible to end this arcane, discriminatory law. It hurts our military every day to force our men and women in uniform to lie or else face discharge.
You gave me hope that I might be able to serve honestly and openly in your State of the Union Address. If you repeal this law today, I’ll sign up to serve my country tomorrow.