In light of the recommendations from the Defense Department to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, FrumForum asked our contributors who have served in the military to weigh in on the debate. We have received comments that both support and oppose a repeal of the law. Below, Ron Hill argues against a policy he finds requires soldiers “to lie” while John Guardiano writes in defense of Sen. McCain’s support of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
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I wish I could be excited about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) being debated once again. I cannot.
Every time this issue comes up it just reminds me that I am not judged on my ability to do a job but on a private life I would not share with my troops anyway.
What many Americans do not know is that DADT requires soldiers like me to lie and pretend not only to my fellow troops but also to my parents, my siblings and even my best friends. Telling even these close friends and family members is against the law.
Being honest with my own Dad by telling him I am gay is against the law and I could have been fired for it. Dating people I am interested in – off base on my own time and behind closed doors – is also against the law.
So the choice for military members is to pretend and lie – thereby violating a fundamental military value – and to remain celibate. Only by alienating ourselves from family, friends and fellow soldiers through lies and isolation (and by living a celibate existence) may we live within the legal constraints of DADT.
It’s hard to have your second class legal status paraded on the evening news with regularity. The DADT debate serves as a constant reminder that I can be fired from my job without recourse simply because of who I am. It would be different if there was a legitimate reason to bar gays from honest military service, but 40 years of research does not support discrimination against gays in the Armed Forces. Even more telling, many of my colleagues knew I was gay and did not care.
After 8 years as an Army enlisted soldier and 4 years as an Air Force Captain, I left the military when my service obligation ended because I was tired of being forced to lie in an institution that abhors dishonesty. Leadership demands honesty and openness, I could be neither as an officer under DADT.
So I left the occupation I loved and was good at. I received high praise in every NCO and Officer Performance Report I ever had. I gave up my retirement – living life authentically became more important. Regrettably I was in a critically undermanned position, so the military will be even shorter during a time of two wars. How many other good soldiers left the military prematurely because they could not live under DADT? We may never know.
It isn’t about not telling anymore. It’s about living an authentic existence and being who I am. I simply cannot lie or pretend anymore just because other people want to pretend that Americans like me don’t exist. So long as they can pretend we don’t exist, they can continue to deny us equal treatment under the law. So they must make gay Americans invisible, and this is what DADT is really about.
I honestly wonder if there is a place for people like me in the GOP anymore. I grew up worshiping Barry Goldwater and voted Republican my whole life, except in 2008. Sarah Palin was the reason I voted for Obama and she has since confirmed the rightness of my choice. I can vote for a Milton Friedman, a Barry Goldwater, a Ted Olson … in fact, if Republican Governor Gary Johnson ran I would vote for him – I have long had libertarian leanings. I do not know if I can vote GOP in 2014, although I hope to. Ironically, if the GOP would let DADT and other anti-gay laws die a quiet death there would be one less reason for moderates and independents to vote against the GOP.
But we shall see. I do not have high hopes for repeal of DADT in the next month, which means the law could be around for many more years to remind moderate and independent voters of exactly where the GOP stands on this unpopular law.