I spent eight years as a journalist in the Naval Reserves. During that time, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and I was called to active duty in the Pentagon at the Joint Combat Camera Center.
During that time, I worked with marvelous, dedicated people. Some were in the military for the educational benefits, some were looking at it as a career, some were closing out their long, eventful careers. And as with all jobs, one’s coworkers become like a second family. There are parties, there are luncheons, there are friendships that spring up, and water cooler talk. People become close.
I served with countless homosexuals. Wonderful, talented, dedicated men and women who could never bring their spouse to an event, could never discuss their family situation, or their relationship problems, the way most of us do at the office without a thought. They had to closely guard every word that came out of their mouths, lest they let slip a bit of information that would get them fired, their long, distinguished careers trashed.
Just try going a week without mentioning your spouse’s name at work.
What a terrible way to live, especially since they were doing the right thing, the good thing, the thing that many people fear to do. These people stepped up, took an oath, left family and friends behind to do everything from front line combat to back room clerical work, to chip paint on Navy vessels and pull maintenance on tank tracks, all to make the enormous machine that is the US military run. And they couldn’t confide in a co-worker if they’d had a heart-rending misunderstanding, or a particularly sweet moment with a lover.
I am beyond delighted that that era of mistreating these wonderful, courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines is coming to an end. They deserve to have every right that is offered to every other citizen of this country without living in the shadows, without worrying that something they do or say–even off duty!–might be fodder for a jealous coworker eager to kick them out of the promotion lineup.
I believe Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be a thing of the past within days. The next appropriate thing will be to allow same-sex partners the right under Federal law to marry.
Love is a good thing. Family is a good thing. Fairness and equality are high ideals. Let’s strive for those things and let the anger and suspicion fall away.