Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Today I honor my Mother on this day set aside for her and other Mommies! My mom raised six kids (four boys and two girls), sometimes alone, sometimes in less than ideal conditions. She worked two jobs for a number of years to keep us fed and clothed (and we all know being a Mother is a job in and of itself). She worked hard on the job and at home and she still found time to be a great Mother!

In more recent years, her health has declined (she's had two mini-strokes, she has diabetes and suffers from multiple sclerosis) a bit, and yet she remains upbeat, funny and loving. If I know her like I think I do, she is out planting her garden today.

We kids (and the grandkids) all love you, Mom!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Repeal DADT

I want to share with you the reason I believe it's time we ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." While my reasons are personal, they do not affect me alone, but the thousands of servicemembers who have knowingly joined our Armed Forces with the knowledge they could face expulsion for no reason more than being who they are. I risk much by even posting this release, but I do so anyway with trepidation.

I am a Petty Officer First Class of the U.S. Navy Reserve, having served for the past fifteen and a half years. I look proudly upon my service to our nation's Armed Forces. I have served three tours of duty in the Middle East (two in Kuwait and most recently in Afghanistan in 2008-09).

I will tell you that my service to our nation has been one of the greatest joys of my life, but the fact that I must do so closeted wears heavily on me.

When I joined the Navy in 1994, I had not given much thought to serving long-term, but when I hit the ten year mark I realized how much I have riding on my commitment to this nation. When I joined it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to serve in the world's finest Navy. I joined because Don't Ask Don't Tell gave me the opportunity to do so without lying.

But silence is a lie.

It pains me that to serve I must remain silent about who I really am; and to perpetuate an untruth. Our nation's Navy is based on the foundations of honor, courage and commitment.

Asking Sailors such as myself to remain silent, sometimes to lie, to hide, to divert attention is dishonorable. I look at my fellow Sailors who have the opportunity to share their lives, their family lives, their personal heritage and am joyfully glad to hear their stories, but when presented that same opportunity I find it painful to tell half the story, present tainted facts or just remain silent.

DADT offers half an opportunity for those gays and lesbians like myself to serve, but to remain as second class citizens, second class servicemembers; and second class recipients as protectors. DADT was implemented as compromise, but it also offered those of us to prove we could augment our nation's Armed Forces and do so honorably.

Most recently, we have served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as serving daily around the world in countless settings, but we have a long storied history of serving our nation dating back even as far as the Revolutionary War.

We have proven the world did not end when we signed up to protect this nation. I think of Sailors such as Allen Schindler, who was murdered by his fellow shipmates because there were no protections for him as a closeted gay Sailor. I think of Sailor Keith Meinhold who served the Navy well for 15 years, but was forced to resign because he is gay. I think of Sailor Jason Knight who was discharged, somehow readmitted and recalled to duty to serve in Kuwait in 2006 and then discharged yet again, yes, because he is gay. I think of a personal friend who I shall let remain nameless who received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy when it was discovered he was gay in the 1970s.

DADT is a lie. DADT is a cruel joke. DADT is dishonorable and must be repealed.

Many of our fellow allies in NATO and other countries such as Israel have long led the way to treat ALL of its servicemembers with the honor and dignity deserving of those willing, and sometimes who have died, to protect their national interests. I am appalled and saddened that our country, who has always prided itself in leading the world in promoting and protecting human rights, has fallen behind our allies. Even worse, with our current policy we virtually stand in the same league as Iraq, Cuba and China.... countries I feel shame that we share this commonality. I am reminded of the old adage. 'Lead. Follow. Get out of the way.'

Some of our leaders such as Senator John McCain obviously do not get it. For our nation to move forward into the 21st century, we must practice our preachings by treating every single citizen with the dignity set aside to us in the Declaration of Independence, where the words 'we hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL Men are created equal.' We cannot have it both ways. We cannot believe these words yet treat a segment of our population as second class citizens. Doing so is a mockery of the words and intent of our founding fathers.

Our nation cannot fairly accept our (and my) service to our nation if we cannot fully enjoy and reap the honor and rewards of serving our country in honor. I look forward to the day that I can proudly retire in four years and do so as an openly gay Sailor.

President Obama has said we cannot waste the talents of a single person willing to serve. The time has come to do more than pay lip service.

Action is needed now.

I respectfully ask your support in repealing DADT immediately.