Prelude: There’ll be plenty of opportunities to discuss DADT in the future, and in fact I’ve engaged here many times previously as a commenter on other posts. Undoubtedly many will turn what follows into a debate over the policy, but my goal here simply is to help the reader understand from where I come when that discussion does occur. With that disclaimer, please indulge me in a common situation in which I again recently found myself:
I was talking with a business associate yesterday who, when the topic arose, inquired, “You joined the military? Why’d you do that? You know, as a gay man?” This may seem like a sensible question, and believe me, I’ve heard it countless times during my career. In spite of the frequency with which I am presented this catechism, I’m still surprised by the presumptuous nature of it. How could anybody bring himself to that? they seem to be asking. What gay man would ever do such a thing?
For the longest time my response to this question had historically been a truthful and reflective, “Well, I didn’t know I was when I joined.” However, as time went on and I passed up more and more opportunities to get out of the service (and in fact as a result of certain career choices, I incurred more years of commitment), I came to realize this wasn’t the whole story.
In fact, what I realized was that I love the service and the fact that I am a gay man has no bearing on it whatsoever. When I look at all the sacrifices I’ve made (and I’m not trying to martyr myself to tell you there have been many) to continue my service, I’d have to say that being in the closet (at work, that is), has hardly been the most cumbersome. For some that is asking too much. For others, not smoking pot is asking too much. For some, even having to wear a uniform and have a particular haircut is asking too much. Regardless, the truth is that military service isn’t for everybody, and it’s not simply a career choice, but a calling. It’s a thankless job and what’s equally frustrating is those who don’t understand it who are trying to “advocate” for you and those who don’t understand it who are adversarial to you for having made the commitment in the first place.
Over the years as I reflected more on what the military means to me and what my fellow soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines mean to me, it became much more clear to me what the more accurate answer is to my friend’s question. For the sake of letting you know a little bit more about me, I’ll share with you what my answer is nowadays:
“I love my country and want to serve in her defense.”
And as an old mentor of mine used to say, There’s a period at the end of that statement.