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'Tis the season to salute all patriots

The holidays make me fat. It’s either that, or just my survival instincts preparing for the cold by packing on some extra insulation. But you can’t argue that it’s just fun to be with friends, share a glass of wine, some chocolate, and a few laughs. I treasure the holiday traditions with my family and friends, and feel an even stronger bond with my old Army buddies.

This time of year is when you want to be close to those you love, but “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” can put a serious damper on that. My military family grew closer during the season, but this was when the strains of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were strongest too. Holiday parties were thrown by the Family Readiness Groups, and the spouses worked together to make it a true celebration. I never had a spouse or date that could help with the planning or decorations (they could’ve used some help in that department). Questions ensued: “Why was such a nice guy single?” or “Boy, do I have a lovely niece you should meet” – the usual.

I’m currently employed at a VA Medical Center working with OEF/OIF veterans, and I think I have rediscovered that patriotic spirit that drove me as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. I’m reminded daily of the costs for our fellow Americans’ freedom, and especially of the sacrifices of our service members forced to serve in silence during these holidays and every day of the year.

There are days that my storied discharge creeps into my heart and mind, revisiting that embarrassment of being fired from a job. The reach of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” doesn’t stop at discharge. It’s a shadow that will continue to follow our veterans until repeal is achieved.

For those in silence, know that there are many of us lifting you up, and celebrating your contribution to our lives each day in the defense of freedom.