...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
      ( 2:15 PM )
A Few Good Men

Two ex-generals and an ex-admiral declared publicly today that they were gay. They are retired, so have nothing career-wise to lose, but still the move is to be admired because they have publicly declared the ridiculous "don't ask don't tell" policy for what it is - and they should know.

The three, Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr and Brig. Gen.
Virgil A. Richard, both of the Army, and Rear Adm.
Alan M. Steinman of the Coast Guard, said the
policy had been ineffective and undermined the
military's core values: truth, honor, dignity,
respect and integrity.

They said they had been forced to lie to their
friends, family and colleagues to serve their country.
In doing so, they said, they had to evade and
deceive others about a natural part of their identity.

There have been many statements made since the policy was enacted 10 years ago, but this may very well be the most powerful. To see what these three men lost because of the military's inability to accept that them being gay, and that being so in no way prohibited their exemplary conduct as military officers, is very sad. They rose to the highest ranks because they loved their jobs, they loved serving their country, and they were very good at what they did. Unfortunately, their own personal lives suffered because they were unable to be their true selves throughout the entirety of their careers. What's even more of a crime, in these days of needing every good soldier we can get:

Nearly 10,000 service members have been
discharged for being gay under the policy, which
was signed into law by Mr. Clinton on Nov. 30, 1993,
according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense
Network, a gay rights group that monitors military
justice. The group made the officers available to
The New York Times as part of a campaign to mark
the anniversary of the policy's official inception.

10,000 service members - discharged for no other reason than their personal lives didn't include heterosexual partnerships. This is a shame. This country that claims equality for all people will not even allow those who want to serve their country do so in full disclosure of their own personal lives. It's also a crime that they face intimidation and harrassment from other narrow-minded servicemembers. The military's policy should be to protect gay servicemembers, not to shun them and make them even more vulnerable to mistreatment or loss of the career they hold so valuable.

The officers said that the Defense Department
and White House had not adequately addressed
the problem of harassment.

"It is important that they engage the harassment
issue," Admiral Steinman, who lives in Dupont, Wash.,
said. "It needs to be tackled more forcefully. And
the president could set the tone."

General Kerr agreed. "The president seems reluctant
to emphasize the antiharassment part of the
`don't ask, don't tell' policy," he said in an interview
from his home in Santa Rosa, Calif. "He just doesn't
feel this is a serious issue."

General Richard said he thought the policy had
damaged military readiness and recruitment and
retention of soldiers. "There are gays and lesbians
who want to serve honorably and with integrity, but
have been forced to compromise," he said in an
interview from his home in Austin, Tex. "It is a matter
of honor and integrity."

Maybe soon we will have a president who takes seriously the harrassment of gay servicemembers and who makes clear the path for them to serve openly and honestly in the career that they have chosen and love and for the country they sacrifice for.

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