Don't Ask Don't Tell Is History?
Gay? In the U.S. Military? Welcome. The Pentagon is so hard up for servicemen that it appears to be letting its homophobic policies die a quiet death. Stars & Stripes, the Pentagon’s official organ, is running a series on gays in the military, among which this item:
On his wedding night in July 2004, then-Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Knight finally accepted a truth he had fought against for years: he was gay. Almost immediately, he moved to get his marriage annulled. He apologized to the woman he’d married. And when it came time to explain his changing circumstances to the Navy, he left nothing out. Under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, he was quickly discharged from the service. But now — whether through a clerical oversight or what some claim is an unwritten change in policy to keep more gay servicemembers in the ranks at a time of war — Jason Knight is back on active duty. Since promoted to petty officer second class, Knight is finishing a scheduled one-year tour in Kuwait with Naval Customs Battalion Bravo. And, already kicked out of the Navy once, he sees no need to hide his sexual orientation. “I thought it was a joke at first,” he said, remembering the day he received his recall orders. “It was the ultimate kick in the ass. But then I thought, there isn’t much they can do to me they haven’t done the first time.” It was comments by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that spurred Knight to come out publicly a second time. In defending the military’s policy, Pace called homosexual acts immoral and contrary to military values. “Though I respect [Pace] as a leader, it made me so mad,” Knight said. “I spent four years in the Navy, buried fallen servicemembers as part of the Ceremonial Guard, served as a Hebrew Linguist in Navy Intelligence, and received awards for exemplary service,” he wrote in a letter to Stripes. “However, because I was gay, the Navy discharged me and recouped my 13k sign-on bonus. Nine months later, the Navy recalled me to active duty. Did I accept despite everything that happened? Of course I did, and I would do it again. Because I love the Navy and I love my country. And despite Pace’s opinion, my shipmates support me.” Those shipmates include his direct supervisors in the customs battalion.
Don’t count out the bigots, however, including some trying to become president:
“I believe polarization of personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well-intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual servicemembers above those of their units,” Sen. John McCain, a presidential candidate and former Navy officer, wrote in an April 16 letter explaining his support of the policy. […] Still, Pentagon stats show that only .3 percent of all discharges are for homosexual conduct.
The Other articles in Stars & Stripes’ series: