This post at Crossed Pond was written by a longtime Dispatches reader. He doesn’t use his last name on the blog and I don’t know if I have permission to reveal it, so I won’t. But I want you to read what he wrote. You see, he’s a former Navy officer and Naval Academy graduate whose job once required him to discharge sailors who were gay. He describes his experiences:
The Naval Academy is a rumor factory built on a gossip economy, and this event produced an extraordinary bit of tongue wagging. I joined in with enthusiasm, reacting like pretty much every other Mid: with ridicule and fag jokes. But something started, some small gear turned.
In 1989, a year following my commission, I joined the wardroom of my first ship, a small East coast frigate. My primary job involved supervision of electronics technicians and their ilk, but like every other shipboard officer, I had several collateral duties, the most significant of which was Shipboard Legal Officer. If this sounds even vaguely impressive, as though it might imply JAG-like coolness, let me disabuse you: I received a grand total of three weeks training, and the job involved, almost exclusively, preparing paperwork for the non-judicial proceeding known as Captain’s Mast, and processing the documents for the administrative separation of the bad apples. Rarely were actual lawyers involved. Nonetheless, I was the face of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for many a sailor, and I kicked out my first queer in 1990. Nothing earth shattering, no complex investigation or lawyerly maneuvering, just a young guy quietly living with a lover, even known about by many of the crew, until the wrong dude found out and reported it. A few questions asked, an admission made, and he was gone.
The next one was more disturbing. He was a hard working deck hand, a book worm, a loner, and a fundamentalist Christian. He made the mistake of leaving a moderately erotic drawing of a partially nude male on his rack in his assigned group berthing compartment. Someone took it, reported it, officers questioned him, and then we kicked him out. But along the way, I learned about self loathing. This young man believed he was demon-haunted and devil-tempted. He could resist these urges so long as we stayed in our home port, where he could attend nightly services at his small church, and pray for strength with the handful of other worshippers. But when we left home port, spending weeks at sea where he had no access to his support group, he grew weak, and would seek anonymous sex in the usual hang outs at the first port call. He hated himself. He comes to mind often; I wonder if he ever came to terms with his sexuality, if he still exists in his self imposed purgatory, or if he killed himself. My questions and doubts grew.
He has now changed his mind and is adding his voice to the growing chorus of veterans who want DADT repealed. Gay and lesbian soldiers are as capable of defending their country honorably as straight soldiers. They should be allowed to do so without fear.