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Gen. Merrill McPeak’s recent op-ed, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Change,” reminds us that even as military attitudes are changing in favor of repeal, opponents of open service just don’t get it.
The premise of McPeak’s argument (“Thus the ‘don’t ask’ part of the rule actually means gays no longer have to lie’) ignores the harsh reality about what DADT is and does to our troops.
When I enlisted in the Navy in 1977, I was only 22. The Navy became my life, which I loved. Throughout my time on five ships and four continents as a postal clerk, later climbing the advancement ladder to become a Chief Petty Officer, my colleagues knew I was gay but didn’t care because I did my job and did it well. Courage, conviction and dedication to duty are what matter in the military. Serving openly made my unit stronger and built trust. We were like family.
Since we were so close I saw almost every day how our service members are forced to lie under DADT whenever they are asked simple everyday questions. Questions like, "Why don’t you have a girlfriend or boyfriend?" or "Why aren't you married or have kids?" This atmosphere of fear and secrecy doesn’t make a unit stronger, Gen. McPeak.
The retired general is right when he says that the purpose of the military is to fight and win wars. And that’s exactly the reason to keep the troops our military needs. There are LGBT people serving in all branches and ranks, from E1 to 09. They are all there, putting their lives on the line as American heroes every day.
The implication that open service means weakened unit cohesion is also way off base too. Troops – whether gay or straight – see the military as a mission to be taken seriously. And they are certainly adult enough not to worry about the sexual orientation of their comrades. Those who say our military cannot handle open service do not understand the armed forces and undervalue our men and women in uniform. The military has a proud tradition of diversity. Military personnel are taught to embrace change, salute and move ahead smartly. And when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is overturned, they will do just that.
Gay people can and are just as tough as the straight soldier next to them. Just look at Eric Alva, the first American to be injured in the Iraq War.
The contention that repeal would somehow “weaken the warrior culture” is a slap in the face to the 66,000 LGBT Americans in the ranks right now.
Overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would allow our patriots to focus on their jobs and truly “be all you can be.” When you are in the military, you care about who has your back, not about someone’s sexual orientation.
Countries all over the world have successfully integrated gays and lesbians, and their militaries are better for it. Some of these militaries are the strongest in the world – just look at Great Britain and Israel. It’s well past time for the United States – an example of democracy and freedom around the world – to get out from behind the curb of history and join the 24+ other countries allowing open service.