Below is a post I wrote almost 6 years ago for a different blog, so excuse the dated references and crappy grammar. I wrote this upon the announcement of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This is my favorite story to tell when people ask what it was like being in the military. I always think about the friends I made, and the close relationship I built during those years…with all of my battle buddies, Black, White, Latino, straight, and gay. I wanted all my friends to know how important they are to me, but this story was meant for one man in particular who was a very dear friend while I served, and still is to this very day. Nothing will ever change the fact that these men and women were, are, and always will be my family. So, on this Veterans Day, I share this story with you.
Up until even 3 or 4 years ago, you could have asked me where I stood on pretty much any political issue, or even issues facing our society and I would not have given a care, and thus not had an opinion for you. It’s kind of sad to admit, but it’s true.
Growing up my family never talked politics, and they sure as hell never did anything for a cause. As a result there were never thought-provoking conversations, or hypothetical discussions, and certainly never any civil discourse.
It wasn’t until I met my wife that I actually started to open my eyes to issues facing America. The funny thing is, as little conversations that happened when I was young, I was a little surprised at how easily I just knew where I stood on all the issues I started reading about, and learning about. Coincidentally, right after I met my wife the political ball started rolling for the 2008 elections. And if anyone says that they weren’t swept up in that political season (one way or another), they’re lying their asses off.
I guess in my case it was a perfect equation for learning. I had the drive and desire to want to learn as much as I could about the issues, and I had someone by my side that was driven by politics most her life, and then on top of that, I spent an obscene amount of time watching politico TV. I was like a sponge man; I couldn’t get enough. I’m happy to say that I am still that way 2 years after the elections. I’m glad it wasn’t just a fad. I will admit that I have severely cut back on the politico TV. A person can only watch so much, lol.
Not that I feel that it’s really important, but after the 2008 political season I discovered that I was a Liberal. To be honest, I always knew I was left-leaning, mostly because of the way I voted in the 2 prior elections I was allowed to vote in since turning 18. But after watching both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions respectfully, I had no friggin’ doubt I was on the left for life.
The reason I say I pretty much always knew I was a Liberal is because even though there were little to no thought-provoking conversations regarding politics within my family, I (of my own accord) decided as a kid that treating people differently based on their skin color, religion, or any other identifying factor, and later in life because of individual’s sexual preference, was just wrong. I am most proud that this thought process has stayed with me as I have gotten older, and that my life experiences have only strengthened that resolve.
I have said before that I never really wanted to talk politics on this blog, mainly because it’s one of the few taboo topics that people get all up in arms about, and it’s hard to have civil discourse with people when it comes to politics, and people end up getting hurt….especially when doing it with people you care about. But, as I said in my last “therapy blog,” I am finding that I have a lot to say lately, and maybe this is life’s way of showing me where I need to go.
So, again I am going to break away from my original idea for this blog, and I am going to talk about a topic that some will see as just me taking a stand on a “political topic,” but to me it’s more than that; it’s a topic that is very near and dear to my heart because it affects so many people in my life that I am so lucky to have, and love very much.
This past weekend a monumental piece of legislation was voted through both houses and today was signed by The President of The United States. That legislation is the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that is filled with hate and bias at its very core.
DADT was essentially started back in 1950 when President Harry S. Truman signed the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), where discharge rules were established for anyone in the military who was discovered to be gay. For anyone who has served in the military, like me, you know that the UCMJ is nothing to play with, and when you’re accused of something by the military and subject to penalty under UCMJ, you have very little chance of a “fair trial” or even winning.
This policy was only strengthened in 1982 when then President Ronald Reagan said that, “Homosexuality was incompatible with military service.” Say what!?! My advice to President Reagan would have been, “Having trouble with your Outlook, maybe you should upgrade to the latest version of life. It works for Windows.” Then in 1993 President Bill Clinton, a member of my team, unfortunately establishes the actual DADT policy saying that as long as a service member does not “talk” about their sexuality, then the military could not “ask” them whether they were straight or gay. Yeah, nice job on that one Sir. If that’s not the best example of putting a band-aid on an open wound, then I don’t know what is.
But that’s all over now. This past Saturday, December 18, 2010 the nation finally took some steps in the proper direction in honoring our soldiers. There is so much this country is getting wrong right now when it comes to our troops, like providing benefits for soldiers suffering from PTSD, taking care of soldiers families, honoring soldiers by telling the truth about what happened to them to their families (see Pat Tillman), that this is a sign of good things to come hopefully.
As I said earlier, even at a young age there were certain things that just never sat right with me when I saw how people acted, and most of them revolved around social justice. I would have to say that the top two things that always got under my skin were racism and treating members of the LGBT community as if they were somehow not “right.” And with the passing of this legislation this past weekend I have been reflecting on what it means to me, but more importantly what it must mean to some others in my life who have struggled so much more because of the judgment of others based solely because of their sexuality. And the worst part is they had to do it quietly.
I have many friends in my life who are part of the LGBT community and I am so thankful for all of them. But I am reminded of one special person in particular. While I served in the Army I was lucky to make many friends. But one individual (who will remain nameless as it is not my place to put his business out on front street) I became friends with would be affected more than others by this past weekend’s events. Since leaving the military this person has embraced his sexuality and is not afraid to announce to the world that he is a proud gay man. He is also a veteran.
While we served together, though it was never brought up for obvious reasons, we all knew he was gay. Some may ask how we knew; we just did. As close-minded as that may sound coming from a straight man, it’s just the truth. But the thing is, no one cared. Literally, no one gave a shit. No one saw him as a gay soldier. He was our battery mate, our battle buddy, but most of all, our friend. And had he ever said anything to any of us about his sexuality I guarantee the response would have gone something like the scene in the slap-stick comedy called Out Cold. The scene is where the local bartender who pretends to be a total ladies man (although everyone knows is gay) finally comes out to his friends and their response is, “Lance, everybody knows, nobody cares.” That’s exactly how it would have been.
The friends I made in the military all pretty much still stay in contact with one another (thank you Facebook). We all come from different backgrounds and upbringings, different cultural experiences, religions, and political outlooks. We rarely agree on politics (except to say they all suck, lol), we argue over religious stances, we even get on each other’s nerves about our opinions. But one thing we have all agreed on without trying to convince one another is the fact that people from the LGBT community should be allowed to serve, and serve openly and proudly.
You see the majority of people who oppose, as they say, “gays in the military” would never know what it feels like to “be in the military.” They’re too busy sitting on the sidelines trying to tell everyone else what should be going on, but if you ever walked up to them and said, “Here, your turn to wear the uniform and go fight,” they would say, “no way!!” But here you have individuals begging to join this country’s military and go fight for this supposed great nation, and you want to say “No” because of their sexuality? Makes no sense to me. That’s why me and the individuals I served with make me so proud, because in the end we know there is no such thing as a “gay” or “straight” soldier. There are just soldiers!
I have always said how much I admired my friends, and all that I don’t know, from the LGBT community. When people ask me why I have such admiration, I explain that the sheer struggle that these individuals face on a daily basis, the fear of judgment, the struggle with their own identity, and the eventual blossoming on the other side of that struggle amazes me. As I have said before, it’s easy to be “straight,” because that’s what society “expects” of everyone, and that’s just B.S.
I constantly preach how much I salute all my former and current soldiers out there fighting the good fight, and sacrificing for our freedoms. But today, I want to give an extra salute to all my brothers and sisters who are soldiers, and just happen to be part of the LGBT community as well. You are all my heroes, on many levels.