Since When Have You Cared, Sir?

February 23, 1778, Valley Forge, PA –  The Continental Army is suffering through a devastating winter, in which one out of five will die from exposure, starvation, or disease.  The British are comfortably enjoying some R&R in the former American capital of Philadelphia.  General Washington is searching for some way to inspire the rag-tag band that remains and, more importantly, to instill some discipline and mold them into capable professional soldiers.  On this day he meets a decorated Prussian officer with extensive battlefield experience who has offered his service to the cause.  But there is considerable evidence that Baron von Steuben is homosexual – patently unfit to lead, a threat to the troops’ morale.  Washington has no choice but to send him back to Europe.  Before the end of summer, Washington surrenders his hapless militia; the Revolution is defeated.  A few of the rebel leaders escape to France or to the Spanish colonies, but most, including Washington, are summarily hanged.

At least that’s what would have happened had our current Pentagon leaders been in charge.  Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen released an open letter to the House Armed Services Committee last week, which was nothing more than an attempt to withhold basic human rights from thousands of their petty underlings.  They requested more time to study the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (a stalling tactic reminiscent of those used by military heads in the ’40’s and ’50’s to put off racial desegregation).  Their senseless, hateful stance – a stark reversal from both men’s previous support for repeal – was skillfully veiled behind a facade of honor, pragmatism, and passing the buck down.  “Our military must be afforded the opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights and suggestions if we are to carry out this change successfully,” they wrote.

So now Defense Department officials are trying to get a sense of how the rank-and-file active duty Joes and Janes feel about the issue.  Of course, members who are gay, and who share that information with the investigators, are not being guaranteed immunity or anonymity or any sort of protection.  To even hint at it or to express support for gay rights would certainly draw increased scrutiny upon a member.  So should anyone be surprised when the DoD results show a vast majority of our troops saying they won’t be able to do their jobs as well if Congress forces them to serve alongside openly gay people?

Meanwhile gay soldiers are on patrol in Kandahar defusing IED’s; gay airmen are right now flying UAV’s over Baghdad; gay marines are translating communication between Arab tribal elders and coalition commanders; gay sailors are… dancing below decks?  As if life in uniform isn’t stressful enough, these members must also live almost like spies; at any time an OSI agent may be listening in on their phone calls back home, or searching through their bags.

The obvious truth, whether we choose to admit it or not, is that gays already constitute a large portion of our armed forces.  The 428 members discharged last year are only the courageous few who sacrificed their own careers and future benefits for a just cause greater than themselves, as well as the unfortunate few who were betrayed by an “incriminating” email or caught holding hands while off-duty in civilian clothes in an off-post movie theater.  Yet instances of gay rape or assault in the military are exceedingly rare.  So what exactly are these homophobes afraid of?  Getting beat out for promotion?

The most baffling part of this whole story, to me, is the Pentagon’s stated need to survey the grunts.  SINCE WHEN have the brass cared about our “concerns, insights, and suggestions?”  No such “opportunity” was “afforded” regarding stop-loss, or multiple extended deployments.  No one at the Pentagon cared when my orders were inexplicably changed from Florida to New Mexico just four days before I was supposed to report (a change that cost me, a 20-year old E-2 at the time, over $600 in unreimbursable travel and college expenses for my wife).  Now, all of a sudden, the Defense Secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs need input from a bunch of naive, pizza-faced kids in order to make a policy decision?

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” must be repealed right f*cking now.  Any individuals who are unwilling to accept that should be charged with failure to obey a regulation.  It will protect our national security and it will save lives.  It will distinguish the US of A from our intolerant, fundamentalist enemies – Al-Qaeda jihadists and those Westboro assholes alike.  It’s simply the right thing.

Semper Fi, Marines!

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