In Other Words…A No-Nonsense Translation of Current Events

Written By: Sara Ledesma

Don’t ask, Don’t tell prohibits openly gay soldiers to serve in the military. Finally, we have a president who declares himself a “fierce advocate” in the fight to end this discriminatory ban. Almost seems like a no-brainer that gay military personnel deserve to share in the freedom for which they make the ultimate sacrifice…their very lives. But alas, such equality is denied these defenders of the land of the free, home of the brave.

The Pentagon claims gay people must lie about their sexual orientation because morale is at risk. If this argument sounds vaguely familiar…that’s because this is not the first time it’s been used to defend bigoted military policy. Military management used the same argument to oppose racial integration of the military. Desegregation, it was said, would put national security at risk by destroying the military. It took a rebellious executive order by President Truman to integrate the military. If history is any lesson, racial integration of the military worked out just peachy.

I have to wonder if being a person who loves another person of the same sex is as much a threat to the morale of our troops as, say, stop loss. Stop loss is the frightening practice of forcing soldiers who have finished their tour of duty back to the battlefield for additional tours. The military will re-enlist troops even after they are declared unstable by mental health professionals. They are shipped out to the battlefield suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or emotional and psychological exhaustion.

Stop loss increases the chances soldiers will develop debilitating mental and emotional problems, make dangerous mistakes in battle that put them and their fellow soldiers at risk, develop substance abuse problems and face marriage and family problems back home. I have a nagging feeling this has to be more damaging to a soldier’s state of mind than anguishing over who their bunkmate is choosing to date, on his or her own time, off the battlefield. Gay men and women in the military who are volunteering to return to battle are being fired, meanwhile soldiers in precarious health are being forcibly shipped back to the battlefield; instead of home to heal and receive proper medical attention.

Other issues I would presume are not conducive to a soldier’s peace of mind: shoddy electrical work conducted by contractors resulting in negligent deaths of our brave military personnel, lack of proper equipment, lack of translators and other skilled personnel (due in part to the firing of gay soldiers with specialized skills), and sexual harassment of women in the service.

A perfect example: Lt. Dan Choi, distinguished grad of West Point, an Iraqi vet eager to return to battle voluntarily, fluent in Arabic (much needed right now!), decorated with accommodations for bravery in battle…recently fired because he felt lying about his identity went against all the values instilled in him at West Point and in the Army. Telling the truth apparently not the type of courage rewarded in the armed services. With real dangers posing daily threats to our military, it seems ridiculous that refusing to admit you are a gay man or woman is what the military finds threatening to the lives and health of our soldiers.

In other words… our government is telling skilled, desperately needed, decorated soldiers that they have the privilege to leave their families and put their lives at risk for our freedom here at home, as long as they don’t expect to partake in that freedom for themselves.


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