Veterans Speak Out on the Ban on Gays in the Military

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"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" may be the Military's Achille's heel"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" may be the Military's Achille's heel
by K. Morgan Barker, VT

The "Don't ask, don't tell" policy was designed by the Military to allow homosexuals to serve in the armed forces, as long as they don't disclose their sexuality. To date, over 11,000 openly gay soldiers have been discharged since the policy was established 13 years ago — an average of more than two discharges a day.

According to a recent poll taken on VT, 69% of veterans polled said they do not support homosexuals serving in the Military.

As Don Sommers, a Vietnam veteran puts it, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Military has always been this way. I have nothing against gays but I wouldn't have liked that element confusing my work under fire. And if they can't keep their sexual preferences under wraps they shouldn't enlist."

Craig Bleu, an Iraq veteran says, "I really don't care. That's their business but I don't want to know about it if someone is gay. It would make me uncomfortable to know."  (continued…)

     

Sarah Meiser, also an Iraq vet, agrees. "It can make things really uncomfortable out there. We're depending on each other to have our back and we need to be able to trust. To me, if I'm wondering if someone is going to sexually harass me when I get enough of that from the male soldiers already….well, I just don't need that."  

Many veterans have cited reasons ranging from disintegrating morale and therefore undermining the soldiers who have to work very closely with homosexuals to being uncomfortable in such close quarters.

However, researchers at UC Davis say the ban is likely to be eliminated.

“The ban on homosexuals in the military could be completely eliminated without compromising the effectiveness of the armed services, should the military choose to do so. While such a major policy change would inevitably create some problems, there is no reason to believe that the Pentagon would be unable to deal successfully with them," says Gregory Herek, a UC Davis social psychologist, and his co-editors, in "Out in Force: Sexual Orientation and the Military," published recently by the University of Chicago Press.

In 1993, the Clinton administration applied a compromise policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue," to homosexuals in the military. The book's contributing authors conclude that homosexuals would not impair the ability of military units to complete their mission, that heterosexual personnel can adapt to living with homosexuals and that anti-gay hostility would be lessened by personal contact with openly gay people.

"We foresee that the present policy ultimately will be discarded…. As more heterosexuals come to know gay men and lesbians personally, we expect that societal fears and stereotypes about homosexuality will diminish progressively to the point at which sexual orientation becomes an unremarkable demographic characteristic," Herek says.

To some, this conclusion is unrealistic in a high-stress, close-quarters scenario requiring ultimate trust of one’s fellow soldiers.

Many veterans agree that the ban may have to be lifted or the draft may be reinstated.

Chad Walczech, an Iraq veteran says, "If I have to choose between a gay and a person who was drafted and doesn't want to be there I would choose the homosexual. No one wants to serve next to a guy who resents being there."

The need for soldiers willing to enlist in the all-volunteer army is staggering. With openly homosexual troops who are willing to serve being dismissed our Armed Forces has been brought to the breaking point, perhaps unnecessarily.

In Britain, for example, gays are incooperated into the military without a "don't ask, don't tell" policy and it appears successful.

It appears that the Military is headed for a change in policy soon.


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