Yesterday, Admiral Mike Mullen, the military’s top uniformed officer, publicly stated that gay men and women should be allowed to serve openly in uniform, arguing that it is “the right thing to do.” Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Admiral Mullen said he is deeply troubled by a policy that forces people to “lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.” The admiral made it clear that in his statement, he was “speaking for myself and myself only.”
Admiral Mullen may have said that he is speaking of himself, but his words echo the feelings of millions of Americans, including this veteran. It is long past time that the military’s outdated, unfair and discriminatory policy toward gays is laid to rest.
What does a person’s sexual orientation have to do with their ability to serve their country? Do you really believe that only a heterosexual can drive a truck, fly a helicopter, serve chow in a mess hall, or pull a trigger? If you are that narrow minded, how can you ever find a hat that fits your head?
The argument I have heard over and over is that having an openly gay person in a military unit can be divisive and cause unrest among the troops. That’s the same excuse that was once used to segregate black soldiers, and in later years, to relegate female soldiers to support roles. Once allowed to serve in all capacities in the military, both groups have proven themselves more than capable of handling anything thrown at them.
There were (and still are) soldiers who say that they will not share a foxhole with a black person, a woman, or a gay person. Instead of giving these bigots what they demand, shouldn’t the military deal with them more appropriately? Isn’t our military supposed to protect the fundamentals of this country? Isn’t one of those fundamentals the belief that all men are created equally? The slogan “No queers in foxholes” is just as offensive as it was to my father back in World War II, when some soldiers said “No niggers in foxholes.”
Let me tell you about a “queer” I shared a foxhole with many times. He was a sergeant, a good soldier, and never tried to hide the fact that he was gay. I have no idea how he was allowed to stay in the Army as long as he did, but I’m sure his excellent performance and his willingness to take on any job without complaint, had a lot to do with it. When he got a few beers in him, he used to laugh and say “I should have been born a WAC.” But there was nothing feminine about this man, and when the bullets were flying, there was nobody I wanted covering my back more than him. He was absolutely fearless, and I knew that he would die for me, just as I would have for him.
Senator John McCain said he was disappointed by Admiral Mullen’s position. In referring to the military’s policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, McCain said “Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective.” Segregation and slavery were effective too, but that did not make them right.
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