The lives of gay soldiers
They gaze at me from my morning newspaper, from my television during the evening news, the young soldiers killed in Afghanistan, more than 500 fallen this year alone. Their eyes meet mine, some playful and smiling, others gleaming with a new soldier's pride. All seem filled with hope, bright with dreams now extinguished. They have sacrificed their young lives for their country, for all of us safe in our homes.
Sometimes I find myself wondering: How many of these fallen soldiers were gay?
I wonder this because gay soldiers live under the menacing cloud of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy enacted in 1993. The policy says that soldiers discovered to be gay must be discharged from the military, barred from serving their country. Despite steadily mounting public opposition to DADT, Congress has stubbornly refused to repeal it. As recently as last month, Republican senators used the threat of a filibuster to kill a measure that would have done just that. So how many of the fallen soldiers gazing at me, I wonder, were forced to conceal their sexual orientation as a condition of serving America?
How many of them, because of DADT, reluctantly left their partners at home the morning of their deployment to Afghanistan, then sat alone watching other unit members embrace wives and husbands and children before heading off to war? How many of them, because of DADT, fell silent whenever talk in the base camp barracks turned to the subject of loved ones waiting at home? And which of them chose instead to play the "pronoun game," guardedly substituting "he" or "she" for the names of loving partners? And how many of them, sworn to uphold the Uniform Code of Military Justice which forbids lying under all circumstances, died regretting the lies they'd told to their comrades and commanders?
I cannot know how many of the fallen heroes whose eyes meet mine were gay. But this much I do know: We asked them to fight for us, keep us safe, sacrifice their lives for us if need be. They did so, with honor. We asked them to live a charade, to pretend to be what we wanted them to be. This too, they did for us. And finally, we asked them, compelled them under penalty of dismissal from military service, to stifle the love that ached in their hearts.
Posted by: MsJS | October 14, 2010 2:51 PM
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Posted by: chucky-el | October 12, 2010 12:03 PM
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