Aviator. Warrior. Patriot. Hero. Those are just some of the images that come to mind whenever I speak to Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach. I had the privilege of first being introduced to the Lieutenant Colonel back in the spring of 2008 - when he first called SLDN to ask for assistance. It was a story I was all too familiar with - a dedicated service member who wanted nothing more than to make the military his career so that he could serve his country was outed by a civilian for no apparent reason. During that initial conversation - it didn't take me long to realize that the service member I was speaking to wasn't simply a decorated Air Force Aviator - a Weapons Systems Operator if you want to get technical (and for those of you who need a pop culture reference - think Goose in Top Gun) - he had the Air Force running through his veins. Literally. Both of Victor's parents were officers in the Air Force. He was born on an Air Force base. His sister was in the Air Force. He went to Notre Dame on a full ROTC Air Force scholarship. The Air Force has been his life for as long as he can remember and his dedication and passion for what he was born to do - fly upside down at 500 miles an hour - is apparent to anyone who meets him.
I finally had the opportunity to meet Victor face-to-face just before he appeared on the Rachel Maddow show earlier this year. He is exactly how he appeared on that show - humble, proud and determined to serve his country. If he can't finish his service as an officer in the Air Force, then he's determined to serve in another capacity. Victor's story has opened the hearts and minds of so many people all over this country - and with the airing of this story on BBC just two days ago - he's now reaching a worldwide audience. What kind of image are we portraying to the world when we are waging two wars - where we claim to be fighting for democracy and civil rights for those who are oppressed - when we still have basic government-sanctioned and government-mandated discrimination going on right here at home?
Lt. Col. Fehrenbach continues to serve on active duty today. He goes to work each and every day and continues to serve his country - each day wondering if this will be the day when he receives his official notice of discharge. This man has nine Air Medals, one for Valor which he earned for a particularly heroic combat mission in Iraq. We have spent an estimated $25 million training him to defend his country. He's got more than 400 hours of combat experience. He wants to serve. His fellow Airmen want him to serve. He's ready and willing to deploy at any time. It's time to end the discrimination. It's time to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell so Lt. Col. Fehrenbach can go back to doing what he loves to do - what he's been trained to do - and what his country needs him to do.