This is the final in a series of posts regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. The previous posts are available here: Post I, Post II, Post III, Post IV, and Post V. Apologies for the delay with this one, but I ended up having a pretty long weekend.
First off, I’d like to thank everybody for their insightful (and sometimes incite-ful) comments so far. I’ve tried to present a dispassionate view from a servicemember’s perspective on the facts and logic of the policy. This certainly won’t be the end of the debate, but hopefully it opened some eyes and gave you a vantage different from the usually politicized anti- and pro- camps.
What follows is based not necessarily on fact or logic, but it is based on experience, and it is true. It’s not meant to try to persuade anybody or give you a reason to change your mind or as fodder for or against your argument. It’s simply how I feel, raw emotions laid bare. I don’t pretend to write for the feelings or experiences of anybody else, gay or straight, military or civilian. I have no idea how many other guys feel this way or how similar their stories are to mine, and I wouldn’t suggest what percentage of the military feels like I do. For the purposes of this post, it isn’t important. This is how I feel and everybody’s entitled to his own opinion. It’s just One Gay Servicemember’s Perspective:
While I appreciate the efforts of some who say they’re trying to free me from the yoke of DADT, it’s clear many still don’t get it. When people argue about the policy and yell about it being “unfair”, I have to laugh because it shows a pretty thorough lack of understanding of what the military is about in the first place. I endure a lot of unfair things in order to serve. I have to cut my hair a certain way. I have to wear a uniform, and wear it correctly. I can’t do many things my civilian friends are allowed to do. I can’t quit my job; simply walk away and tell my boss to shove it. If I don’t do something my boss tells me to do, I don’t get fired…I go to jail. I could go on. So who gives a rip if I have to stay closeted? Lots of people are in the closet by their own choosing. And even though I didn’t realize I was gay when I joined the military, I was well aware of the policy when I figured myself out. I was also well aware of it the numerous times I’ve re-upped since then. It’s a choice I made, and a choice I stand by, so get off my back about it.
If you want to talk about real sacrifices, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen husbands and fathers peering through the bus window down to their families on their way to who-knows-where for wh0-knows-how-long, with no guarantee they’ll return. What? I can’t tell people I’m a fag? Oh, okay, I guess I can do that. I can hardly consider my sacrifice to be even on the same scale.
There’s the argument about “denying who I am”. Denying who I am? Are you serious? You know who I am? I’m a fucking proud American and military member, that’s who I am. People who argue about “honor” and how somehow living a closeted life (at least at work) is contrary to the principles of honor that the Armed Forces are based on clearly either have never been in the military, or if they have been, learned a vastly different definition of “honor” than I did.
To me, honor means sacrificing and giving of myself for a higher cause. It doesn’t mean being who I am and demanding my way or I’m not going to join the fight. It doesn’t mean joining only on my terms. It doesn’t mean questioning the honor of those who are giving of themselves in some of the most fundamental ways because they don’t prize their gayness as much as the gay “leaders” say they should.
Here’s a mental exercise for them: What’s honorable about ditching your wife who’s 5 months pregnant to go off to a foreign country and kill people, knowing full well you may not come back? Aren’t you deserting them at a vital time? Do those who question my honor for “denying who I am” ever question the honor of a married soldier who leaves his family behind for months on end? No they don’t, because to them, gays need to be protected because we’re defenseless against the big mean military machine and its anti-gay policy.
I realize these people are trying to help and want to find a way for me to serve openly, and I appreciate that, but their methods are insulting. I know the score and am aware of what it takes to play. I signed up voluntarily knowing what it would mean and don’t need them and their self-righteous condescension. I am fully aware and making a sacrifice I knew I’d have to. Don’t cheapen it by trying to martyr me for your own political (or societal) purposes. If you’ve got a legitimate reason to change the policy based on what’s important (i.e., Defending the Nation), let’s hear it. That’s been my point of this whole series. But going on and on about my honor, my sacrifice, who I am, without acknowledging what’s important to me (my dedication to defending America) is insulting and petty.
As I’ve mentioned before, yea, it’d be great to serve openly. But that’s not why I enlisted in the first place. I’m not here for me and I’m not doing this for my own benefit. That I’m being treated “unfairly” is true. But I have a hard time looking anybody with a family back home in the face and saying that.
When I’m dead and gone, I’ll be much more proud of having served in the military and the sacrifices that entailed than I ever will be proud to have been into other dudes. It embarrasses me that some gay (and straight, too) folks can’t fathom that to some people, the honor of serving actually is worth that sacrifice. In fact, it’s the sacrifice that demonstrates the honor. The Air Force calls it “Service Before Self“, the Marines call it “Semper Fidelis“, the Army implores to “Put the Welfare of the Nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own“, and the Navy says they will “Make decisions in the best interest of the Navy and the Nation, without regard to personal consequences“.
That is honor. And that is “Pride”.
There is nothing more honorable than self-sacrifice to help one’s Country through military service. Sacrifice is what the service is all about.
When people ask me “how can you do it?”, I tell them that it’s just another sacrifice I make. It’s amusing sometimes to see the perplexed look on some peoples’ faces when I say that. I’m amazed how hard it seems for some people to believe that I’d willingly make such a sacrifice. For them, I can only presume, being in the closet is asking too much. That’s cool. I say it all the time: “The military’s not for everybody.” Would I like the policy changed? Of course, and I’ve said as much. But do I harbor ill feelings because of it? Am I bitter because of it? Hell no. I know full-well what I’m getting into, and I’ve had every opportunity to back out. The military and the Nation is bigger than me, though, and that’s why I’m here.