Gays in the military

The land of the free, unless you’re gay

Lt. Dan Choi

The last week or so I’ve seen quite a bit of activity on Twitter about him; most being requests to electronically sign either a petition to the Army or a letter addressed to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on Choi’s behalf.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name, check out this link for Courage Campaign. In essence, the story is this: Lt. Choi, a West Point graduate and decorated Army veteran, is being discharged for violating the “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” Policy.

You see, Choi, during an interview on the Rachel Maddow show March 19th, admitted to being gay and a few weeks later received a letter informing him he would be dismissed from the Army in accordance with DADT. Both the letter and petition circulating on Twitter and the Web urge the repeal of that policy as well as a request to allow Lt. Choi to continue his service.

I agree with half of it.


Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

For those of you that don’t know, once upon a time I served in the Marine Corps. Four years of active duty, stationed from California to Japan, and during my tour I received quite a few commendations, medals, and other nice bits of this and that that let me know I didn’t suck when it came to being a Marine.

So there’s that.

And during that time, I can tell you with absolute certainty I served with quite a few gay men and women. They were, all of them, good people who served their country proudly and passionately and in my experience their sexuality hindered their ability to serve, perform, or lead not in the slightest.

That the guy to my left had a boyfriend mattered absolutely zip in his ability to set a perimeter, navigate through unfamiliar territory, or apply the three or so pounds of pressure it takes to fire an M-16, is what I’m saying.   

So there’s also that.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was crap from inception – an olive branch to Gay America that the Right could live with – but it really didn’t change much in regard to how the military operated from day to day. Before the policy, gay men and women would simply lie if they were asked. Now they just weren’t asked.

But either period would see a discharge if the truth came to light, and in addition to the immediate aftermath of frustration, humiliation, or depression, your discharge status is something that follows you the rest of your life.

In short, DADT isn’t just, doesn’t work, and ignores the fundamental problems with DOD policy. But it was, I think, a first step in the right direction. And in my humble opinion, it’s time to take the next. 


The Good Lieutenant

Lt. Choi is a different matter entirely. While his discharge is a tragedy – this is a guy who’s an Iraq War Vet, a West Point graduate, and an Arabic translator (which we clearly need all we can get) – I have to say I think he must still be discharged.

You see, Lt. Choi is a man who accepted his commission, honorably served his country, and then publically came-out on television – but did each well aware of the military’s policy regarding gay men and women in uniform as well as the ramifications of breaking that policy.

In other words, he knew the rules, broke them, and is now crying foul. And while I appreciate and respect his desire to serve, a well-ordered military doesn’t operate that way. A well-ordered anything doesn’t work that way.

A far better approach, I think, is for Lt. Choi to work diligently to repeal DADT and then petition for reinstatement if and when the policy has changed. He, and the countless other Marines, soldiers, Airman, and Sailors who have been discharged under the policy, could then have the opportunity to serve again when they’re most needed.

And needed they are. As of this week, 4,308 United States military personnel have died in Iraq and 710 have died in Afghanistan. And I’d bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in yours that there’s more than a few gay men and women in those two lists.