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Giving Thanks to All U.S. Troops

As a young boy growing up, my family instilled southern values. They taught me to always give thanks to those soldiers who place their life on the line so I can sleep safely each night. With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, all I seem to be able to think about are our troops, not just those overseas, but those here at home as well. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and being with family and friends, so we should be giving thanks to ALL service members regardless of their sexuality.

As a veteran of the US Army, I realize how much the sacrifice can actually be during the holidays. These people who have volunteered to protect our country from foreign and domestic enemies, are not all the same, however they all share a common goal and that is to serve and protect. By not allowing the best and the brightest to be part of this force because of their sexuality, it will only hurt the United States from achieving this common goal.

There are men and women who don't get that opportunity to spend time with there families during such a traditional holiday, because they are protecting the freedoms of people like you and me. I have had the pleasure and privilege of being one of those people. As a soldier, your definition of family changes from just the normal platonic family to a family made up of just random strangers from all over the country with one mission in mind: To serve this amazing, diverse country we call the USA.

As one of those people who stepped forward to defend each of us, there was more than just the pain of not being able to see my family on such a family-oriented holiday, but the fact that I also would not have been able to express my love for a partner over the phone. I would have been in fear that if I said "I love you" to another man, someone would overhear me and turn me in for being gay. Not to mention while everyone is getting care packages from their wives and children, he would be unable to do the same for me. I was willing to lay my life down for a country I loved so much, but the country I loved wanted me to hide and lie about who I was.

Every day the Army preached to us the core values of honor, duty, respect, personal courage, loyalty, selfless service and integrity. I was forced to live by all seven values, but the Army only wanted me to live by these values with certain stipulations.

Since then I have been on a rollercoaster ride that has had its good times, but definitely had its bad times. December 16, 2003, was the day that I walked into my commander's office and handed him a letter stating that I am gay. That is also the day that my Army career came to an end. Ever since that day I have been fighting this unjust law.

Now, 16 years since the law has been put in place, I believe that we have the opportunity to make a difference and possibly win the fight to end discrimination against LGBT individuals who are willing to sacrifice more than most Americans are willing to. We have to stand united and tell congress that enough is enough and we can’t wait any longer to jeopardize any more American lives. We need the best and the brightest serving and we need them now. If the ban is lifted I would re-join the same day, because I am an American too, and should be allowed to serve openly and proudly.