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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The few and the proud: gays in the military

    I was spending some time with friends this Veteran’s Day and one guy told a story about meeting a guy and hooking up with him. It’s the classic “”boy meets boy at a smoky gay bar”” story, except for one detail: Both are currently serving in the military.

    I would not have paused at hearing this story except that gay members of the military are regularly discharged because of their homosexuality; more than 11,000 have been dishonorably discharged between 1994 and 2005. For an openly gay soldier, being honest comes at the risk of his or her job or even life. For a nation at war, discharging so many otherwise fit-for-duty soldiers is to the detriment of our forces.

    The official policy of the armed services is that gay men and women are allowed to serve in the military as long as they do not engage in any same-sex sexual activity, make statements demonstrating homosexuality or enter into a homosexual marriage.

    This is the policy, enacted early in the Clinton administration, of “”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, Don’t Harass,”” generally called “”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.””

    The media rarely mentions the final two “”don’ts”” of the policy, but they are generally ignored anyway. The Department of Defense has, in some cases, specifically pursued information to find gay service members. There have been increasing media reports that deliberate outings of gay service members with profiles on gay online personals sites.

    And since the policy has gone into effect, several deaths, hundreds of serious injuries and thousands of threats have been recorded against gay men and women serving in the military.

    But the negative effect of the “”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”” policy goes beyond an 11,000 body reduction in troops or individual trauma. Some of those ejected troops served in extremely critical positions. For example, 73 were linguistic specialists – of those, 20 spoke Arabic, 16 spoke Korean and six spoke Farsi. All three languages are critical in the War on Terror and uncommonly spoken.

    Further, the effect is chilling on potential recruits. During high school, I considered enlisting or applying to one of the military academies. But when I went to a Navy recruiting office, I admitted up front that I was gay and was told I could never mention that again. Faced with the option of serving my country, but without honesty, I walked out.

    Such is the policy of our proud, honorable military: “”Lie so we can have a few more soldiers during a time of war.”” But reports from every enlisted person I spoke with said that gays are, if not common, then at least present and known.

    Further, one enlisted service member said that same-sex sexual activity while deployed is much more common than the public would like to know, even among avowed heterosexuals.

    Add to that the story of Brian Hughes, a gay Army Ranger who was one of the members of the elite task force that rescued the famed prisoner of war Jessica Lynch. If only the TV movie of that rescue reflected the honorable service of our gay service members.

    While gay marriage may still be contentious in America, this issue is one that Americans agree on overwhelmingly. In a December 2003 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans agreed that gays, lesbians and bisexuals should be allowed to openly serve in the military.

    We must recognize the service that gay men and women have been performing for this country for years. My gay uncle served in the military during Vietnam. Many gay men were documented serving in World War II, where they fought on the front lines and had their own gay subculture within the armed services.

    The truth is that there are many gay men and women putting their lives on the line every day. Gay men and women are stationed around the world today, some with partners and children at home. Veteran’s Day is about their service to our country too.

    Maybe by next Veteran’s Day, the newly minted Democratic majority in Congress can enact a sensible policy and allow gay men and women to serve openly. And if not, gay people will still fight for this country, even while being denied acceptance at home. Because they are the few and the proud, to our gay veterans, we owe great appreciation.

    Sam Feldman is a junior majoring in Spanish and political science. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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