A Letter to the Military:The Pentagon has said that recruiters have been told to accept applicants who say they are gay, as reported in ‘U.S. Military Moves to Accept Gay Recruits’.
So the policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has been dealt the equivalent of a shotgun blast to the face. It’s true that the legal maneuvering of the President and Department of Justice have extended the life of DADT, but it only has enough strength to stumble around for another moment. It will soon gasp its dying breath anyway.
Where does that leave us? Honestly, exactly where we were yesterday: in Afghanistan, at boot camp, driving an MRAP, in the barracks, in the cockpit, on leave, on a Marine Expeditionary Unit, and probably within shouting distance of where you’re sitting.
The difference is that now we need to start discussing how to work through repeal. Despite what you’ve heard, this will not be a painful process. If you take a moment to think about it, the only real change is that you’ll no longer pretend that you can’t see the gay elephant in the room – even though it’s been following you around for the past 17 years.
So let’s be clear: there isn’t going to be a mass influx of rabid, anti-military degenerates lining up at recruiting offices. This is not about letting gays into the military. It never was. This is about being true to the values of every warrior who wears our country’s uniform. Upholding the sanctity of integrity and a deeply rooted sense of camaraderie are central to who we are as war fighters.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider the facts.
For all these years, we’ve been right here with you. We’re not some foreign ‘other’ seeking to turn your world upside down. You might not have noticed, but we’ve fought, suffered, killed, celebrated, wept, and worked together since day one. We’ve been fiercely loyal and as selfless as you could want, and all the while we served knowing that the price to pay for this privilege is to suffocate a fundamental part of ourselves.
Can you really square these facts with the allegation that we pose some kind of threat?
If you’re still not convinced (which is understandable – I’m certain that Generals Casey and Conway, Admiral Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates share your skepticism), so be it. We never asked that you meet us half way; so tell me, what do you want from us?
If you don’t have an answer to that question, I’ll bet a month’s pay that you don’t really consider us part of your team. Maybe witnessing a gay pride parade or listening to a gay activist on TV led you to think that we’re not as dependable as other Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, or Airmen. My best advice: stop listening to the doomsday scenarios from fundamentalists and to the idealistic assurances from progressive groups, and start engaging us directly.
You know what we do for a living. I can assure you that we have thick skin and are as determined as anyone to see this issue resolved as efficiently as possible. It must be said that the military being perceived as so woefully ill prepared for this latest DADT development is a shame.
It would be acceptable if we were facing an unexpected, insurmountable challenge – but in this case, the greatest military in the world made a choice not to be ready for an inevitable scenario.
However, if this results in an expedited repeal process, we are prepared to accommodate it. Unlike those who ignored the idea of gays in the military in the hope that it was a myth, we have sharp insight as to how to proceed. We can help, or we can wait, or we can even shut up if that’s what’s necessary – but at some point our senior leadership is going to have to acknowledge that we exist and give us an order, or at least consider asking for our input and cooperation.
As of today, the only word we have ever received from our leaders is from Clifford Stanley, an Under Secretary of Defense, “We note for service members that altering their personal conduct in this legally uncertain environment may have adverse consequences for themselves and others should the court’s decision be reversed.”
I’ll speak for my own service in saying that the Marine Corps is not led by the courts or congress – Marines lead Marines. Many of us are nearly jumping out of our seats with enthusiasm to help see the military through a successful transition. We want to do our part, but we cannot do anything without our leaders taking the initiative.
The morning after Judge Phillips’s injunction, I watched as leaders gave administrative guidance to every level from the battalion down to the squads. Not a single word was mentioned about whether DADT was still in place or if it would be appreciated that gay service members continue to exercise discretion while the DoD figures out “what the heck just happened.”
I seriously doubt that this was unique to my unit.
If Secretary Gates is correct in his warning of “enormous consequences,” then what I witnessed constitutes a refusal to lead that should be unimaginable for unit leaders at every level.
Regardless of the legal or legislative future of DADT, sticking our collective head in the dirt is conduct unbecoming of the world’s finest fighting force.