Thursday, September 22, 2016

Five years after

I would like to thank Bill Clinton for Don't Ask Don't Tell, in spite of what became a horrible law, which gave me the opportunity to serve our country. As a result of Clinton's efforts, I enlisted in September 1994, fulfilling lifelong dream of serving in the United States Navy.

Likewise, I thank President Obama for being tenacious and fierce in making it possible to serve without fear of being rejected for being nothing more than who I am. 

Five years ago today marked the end of DADT. Five years ago today, thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers sighed a breath of relief knowing we could now serve openly with dignity. We offered our country the same service and loyalty--no more, no less than our other fellow members of the Armed Forces.

In May 2010, I went to the halls of our Capitol with 300 gay former servicemembers and members of the Human Rights Campaign to lobby Congress to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. 

We were welcomed by some of our leaders and not so much by others. While there lobbying, and from what I learned I was the only member of this group who was currently serving in the military so you might imagine I felt a little bit scared being so public (especially since I had served in the Pentagon for two weeks a mere two days prior).

In reality, I consider myself very lucky. I served with officers who led and who realized that who and what we are was far less important than what we offered in service to the Navy, our country, and our people.

Funny thing is, even after DADT was abolished, I served exactly as I had before. My being gay was never an issue nor did I care to make it one. I was there to do my job and to do it as well as I humanly could. Anyone who serves in the military knows there is no 'I' in team.

During my 21 years of service, I never once came out to a fellow Sailor except to both Cmdr. Elizabeth Zimmerman and Cmdr. Ron Flesvig on my last day of service. Zimmerman's words made me tearful as she let me know that would never have mattered if she had known.

Nor do I think I ever properly thanked these officers: Cmdr. Tim Nosal, Cmdr. Christine Phillips, Cmdr. Robert Carr, and Cmdr. Nancy Harrity, who I more than suspect surely "figured me out," but never cared... (if anyone else knew, I thank them too) they went out of their way in subtle tones to let me know I was accepted for the job I did, for who I am, not for what I am. I am eternally grateful!

Since retiring a year ago this month, I have been active with a gay veteran's support group at our local VA Center and if I have learned anything, I realize I was one lucky Sailor. I served with some of the finest officers and enlisted personnel possible. 

Overall, my Navy career was one of great fun, but my VA therapist has told me on numerous occasions that my experiences were an anomaly, and I guess I can see that when listening to some of the horror stories from my fellow vets and what they went through. 

So you can understand why I have a great deal of gratitude for those with whom I served and with this President of ours.

One of my fondest remembrances after abolishing DADT occurred late in my Navy career. 

I remember the first time I walked into NOSC Chicago's drill deck during gay pride month 2013 and was greeted by a sign on the quarterdeck that read, "We welcome, celebrate and acknowledge our gay and lesbian Sailors. At lunch that day, Cmdr. Carr even dryly said, "Who thought we'd ever see that?"

I can honestly tell you, NOT me.

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