As many of you know, I served in the U.S. Navy from the beginning1984 to end of 1995.After 12 years it was regrettable to leave. I enjoyed my time in the Navy.
What I liked most about it, was the sense of accomplishment that came from doing a good job with highly commendable people. I liked meeting all different kinds of people from all over the country.
It was my truest exposure to diversity. In all of my jobs that have succeeded I have not worked with a more broad range of diversity in terms of cultures and geographic heritage.
That’s why it was so odd and heart breaking in making the decision to leave. I left active duty, and ultimately the navy, because of the institution of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Believe it or not, before the institution of this policy, life as a Gay man in the Navy was easier. I’m fairly certain most of my shipmates knew of my orientation. Or by virtue of not wanting to know, knew. They had long stopped asking me what I did on the weekend, or who I hung out with.
I was in a relationship with Rob after 1989. The notion that I had something so wonderful occurring in my life and not being able to share that with the people I was most close to on a daily basis.That part was difficult. I loved those folks in the navy. They were mostly my family and we supported one another. I felt very supported and mostly loved. I had achieved a high degree of accomplishment in a short period of time. The evidence of this is worn on one’s sleeve. Literally. Having three chevrons in just seven years spoke about as much me when I walked in the room as anything I could say.
I really miss that. The notion that the first thing one looks for in a person when they walk in isn’t the color of the their skin, the swish in their walk, the status of their ring finger, or the twang in their voice. You can size nearly anyone up in the first introduction by virtue of what was on their chest and what was on their sleeve. I was proud of what mine said about me.
I had been awarded the Navy Achieve Medal which is the highest commendation of personal achievement one can receive. What I was most happy with was that I earned this during the period of Desert Storm. Because of my status as an administrative professional in a squadron of aircraft specialists and aviation warfare specialists (who usually hogged all of the spotlight – we were there to fly planes after all) this accomplishment was especially noteworthy. And the idea that I did this during Desert Storm following a nomination for Sailor of the Year for my Squadron and Western Pacific Fleet among said AW’s and other aircraft specialties made me especially proud.
But I had to walk away from all of that when it became clear that the tide clearly turned after DADT was instituted. All of a sudden, those who previously hadn’t cared about orientation issues began talking openly and sometimes with hostility about the issues of Gays in the navy. Sometimes they would clearly escalate the volume of their commentary in my direction. All of this served to make me highly uncomfortable and fearful.
In 1984 I went through a horrendous arrest and investigation after being charged with homosexuality and sodomy.
I had no desire to go through that dehumanizing experience again. (I’d rather not relive that here – i’ve done so in a blog past, so if you’re interested in knowing the details, I’m not afraid to share them, I just don’t have it in me to go into it once more here)
I’ve always considered returning to the Navy. Not, as an active duty member, but rather as a reserve member. Particularly in today’s troubling economic times, and the state of Social Security I want to return so that I can complete my eight years to complete my time in order to earn my retirement. This is very important to me, and my family.
Our hope is that DADT would be repealed by now. This is particularly important because of my advanced . . . age. It appears this is the last year I have to re-join in order to reach retirement before age 60. A requirement to join the military.
So for me, I PRAY that the U.S. Senate and the President do the right thing and lift this antiquated, inhumane, and discriminatory practice. I’m speaking up about this because for those who are my friends or know me – know that this is important to someone you know.
Please do your part to support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.