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"Salty, Blue Collar Guys"

Media coverage on DADT hasn’t let up since last weekend’s National Equality March. Andrew Sullivan is back at it with yet another piece on DADT. Yesterday, he published a veteran’s personal account of how participating in a discharge hearing changed his stance on open service.

From the post:

“I was an active duty Navy officer from 1990-95 stationed on a Ticonderoga Class cruiser based in Norfolk, and in spite of being fairly liberal and the son of hard-core Kennedy Democrats, I was a bit skeptical of gays in the military (military cohesion and all that) and thought DADT was a decent compromise. That is, I was a supporter until I actually had to participate in a discharge hearing for one of my sailors.

“The shipboard legal officer (not an attorney, but ostensibly his defense lawyer) started the process and it became very clear this policy was, in a word, stupid. His entire chain of command from his Leading Petty Officer (E5) to his Chief Petty Officer (E7) to me, his Division Officer, gave him stellar reviews and testified to his hard work and excellent seamanship. To see these salty, blue collar guys give impassioned defenses of this sailor was eye-opening to say the least. They could not have cared less what he did or whom he spent time with on liberty, but they wanted him to stay part of our crew. I cannot recall exactly how he defended himself, but I do recall that he essentially had no options - it was a done deal. Our CO had no option either and I could tell it tore him up. The sailor was discharged with an OTH (Other Than Honorable). This was about 1994, and I can imagine these types of attitudes have become even more pervasive. I fully understand this was not a ground combat unit in Iraq or Afghanistan, but Navy ships are obviously very close quarters and the deployments were all too real. Based on this experience, I believe this policy should be repealed as soon as possible. We simply cannot afford to lose quality members of our Armed Forces.”

While this Navy officer’s experiences date back to DADT’s infancy, it shows that attitudes within the military have been steadily changing. The next generation of top brass – today’s Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans – understand that being gay or lesbian has nothing to do with job performance. Support for DADT is cracking under the test of time. Yet the military continues to discharge honorable and skilled patriots every day.

But as we await repeal, service members like Tom, a gay navy shipman interviewed this week by San Diego’s “10 news”, continue to serve in silence.