By all accounts, former Air Force Major Margaret Witt was both an excellent officer, and a highly competent flight nurse, who helped keep hundreds of wounded American soldiers alive as they were evacuated from combat zones in Afghanistan and the Middle East. During her career, Major Witt received highly complimentary efficiency reports and reviews for her dedication and abilities in her critical job.
But, less than a year before she would have been eligible to retire with her full pension, Major Witt was discharged from the Air Force in 2004, after a civilian wrote a letter to her superiors about her sexuality. Margaret Witt is a lesbian.
Nobody alleges that Major Witt’s sexual orientation had a negative impact on her abilities to do her job, or that it interfered with her unit’s mission in any way. Her former colleagues testified on her behalf at her court martial, to show their support for Major Witt, and for the excellent way she performed her duties. But none of it mattered. At a time when our country was at war, and when our wounded servicemen and women needed and deserved the best care they could get, the Air Force threw out an excellent officer and nurse, based upon some archaic and hypocritical rule that didn’t have a damn thing to do with the way she did her job.
The military’s position was that since Major Witt had a long term affair with a civilian woman, has had shorter relationships with two other women in the military, and that she is now in a long term relationship with a woman who was married when they began seeing each other and is now divorced, Major Witt showed poor judgment, and her actions reflected badly upon the Air Force. Not that her activities had in any way impacted her ability to do her job, or threatened national security. Basically, she was punished because she slept around a bit.
Give me a break! When I was in the Army, I served with gays, wife swappers, hound dogs who would hump anything in a skirt, and everything else you could have imagined. It was none of my business. All I cared about was that they did their job.
I spent the last couple of years of my military time stationed at West Point, the bastion of military propriety. It was a little Peyton Place! There were some officers, NCOs, and enlisted men and women who jumped from bed to bed faster than fleas in a flophouse. For part of that time, I lived in officers quarters on Stewart Air Force Base, which was being deactivated and had a surplus of housing. It was interesting to watch who snuck out of whose doors early on any given weekend morning.
And that wasn’t unique to that particular place or time. It’s a dirty little secret that on any military base, there is a lot of sexual hanky panky going on, just as it was in my time in uniform, and probably back as far as when the Romans conquered the world around them. And just as it does in every suburban neighborhood and in any big city.
I’ve said before that one of the bravest, most dependable men I ever served with was a sergeant who used to joke that he should have been born a WAC. He didn’t hide the fact that he was gay, and nobody cared. I can’t think of any man, alive or dead, whom I would have rather had covering my back when the bullets were flying.
Why is Margaret Witt’s sexual history anybody’s business if it doesn’t affect her work? We have had presidents, congressmen, and senators acting like horny college frat boys and girls throughout our history, and we don’t boot them out, even though most of them do a terrible job!
It’s way past time that we finally accept the fact that sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s ability to be a good soldier, a good neighbor, and a good citizen. People are people. Some like boys and some like girls. Some are uptight and homophobic, and some are tolerant. And, unfortunately, some have the power to ruin another person’s life and career, just because they don’t fit into the tiny little pigeonhole that they think they should.
Gay soldiers, just like all gay people, are not perverts, child molesters, or out to convert you to their lifestyle. They just want to be free to live their lives, love who they want to, and to serve their country.
Who cares if Margaret Witt is gay or straight? I can tell you one thing – those kids laying on the stretchers that she helped keep alive didn’t give a damn about her sexual habits. To them she was an angel!
Tags: Afghanistan, Air Force, Air Force Major Margaret Witt, combat zone, enlisted men, flight nurse, Gay soldiers, gays in the military, lesbian, military base, national security, Peyton Place, sex on military bases, sexual orientation, Stewart Air Force Base, West Point, wounded American soldiers