The following is a letter I just submitted to both our local newspaper and Detroit's Free Press. In additon, I plan to march in our local parade, wearing my rainbow colors and carrying a placard calling for the end of Don't Ask; Don't Tell:
I am a Vietnam-era veteran (US Navy Submarine Service) who served honorably for 4 years. I’m a member of our local American Legion post. I’m a resident and homeowner in _____. I’m also a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community. I am very proud of all these affiliations.
In many of our communities, we have a tradition of having a parade on Veterans’ Day. As we march, or enjoy and pay tribute to those who are marching, we should not forget the 65,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans currently serving in the US Armed Forces, and the one million gay veterans, who have bravely served our country while being forced to lie and hide who they are. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” requires gay service members to hide the truth about who they are, which runs counter to the military’s ideals of honesty and integrity, or face discharge.
Since its inception, we have discharged over 11,000 qualified soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines for the mere fact of their sexual orientation. Even during time of war, we still fire an average of 2 people a day – including dozens of Arabic linguists and hundreds of people with skills for which the military is experiencing critical shortages – from their service to our country. Meanwhile, we are lowering the standards for enlistment in a desperate effort to maintain sufficient troop levels, ignoring that there are thousands of highly-qualified LGBT people in this country who would readily enlist if they could do so openly.
There is no legitimate reason for banning gays from serving openly in the military. Some of our closest and most loyal allies, including those fighting alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan, allow gays to serve openly in their militaries. Currently 24 countries allow gays and lesbians to openly serve. Studies regarding the integration of gays into the militaries of Australia, Israel, Britain and Canada have shown that it does not alter their effectiveness in any way. Moreover, many distinguished members of our own military, such as the late Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Wesley Clark, have criticized the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
With Veterans’ Day approaching, please take a minute not only to recognize the service of ALL of our veterans, but also to voice your support for the end of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell”. No other law mandates firing someone because of their sexual orientation. Tell your Representative and Senator that you support the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” because gay servicemembers and veterans deserve our respect just as much as their comrades; they should not be treated as second class citizens.