A two-part Memorial Day Weekend post.
Part I: Issues
This past Thursday, with the long Memorial Day weekend in sight, the House of Representatives passed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, 322 – 96. Most of them will likely reference that in Memorial Day speeches. Unfortunately, NDAA includes DADT and DOMA related amendments. Not all servicemembers are respected by some of the DC Electeds.
From Chris Geidner, MetroWeekly:
The DADT-related amendment, proposed in the House Armed Services Committee by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), expands the required certification process for repeal … .
As to the marriage amendments, the first, proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), ‘reaffirms the policy of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.’ … The second, offered by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), expands upon the current restrictions of DOMA by effectively banning same-sex marriages from being performed at military bases or by military employees.
Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United notes that the inclusion of the “hostile amendments” was not a surprise, adding “it should not become a cause for concern as long as our allies in the Senate and the President all stand strong and refuse to support a defense bill containing these amendments.” (Emphasis added)
The Obama administration issued a statement, summarized by Pam at Houseblend: “The Administration supports House passage of H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012” but also “supports section 3 DOMA repeal and ‘strongly objects’ to any legislative attempts to directly or indirectly undermine or delay DADT repeal.”
Unless something unexpected happens, the DADT repeal process will play out fairly soon. That won’t mean anti-LGBT rhetoric and actions will completely and forever cease in our militaries. Or anywhere else, for that matter. But this is another step in the long process toward equality. For many lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers, the steps came too late. In terms of gender identity, the steps haven’t begun. These “issues” are ultimately about persons.
Part II: People
From Lisa Neff, Wisconsin Gazette, the story of one gay servicemember, killed in action.
Day after day, since the first troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003, mainstream news outlets have honored fallen U.S. servicemembers.
Those hometown hero reports have not identified fallen servicemembers as gay, but statisticians estimate that about 200 gay and lesbian servicemembers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The same policy that requires gays to lie about their sexual orientation while on active duty distorts the stories of their lives after their deaths, according to U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who in a recent floor speech read a letter from a gay soldier in Iraq who learned that a fellow soldier was gay only after he was killed by an improvised explosive device.
The letter read, ‘I’ve had to face the DADT issue not just because I am gay … but because I’ve had four gay men in my command who I have known to be gay. I knew about two of them because they believed that living a lie was counter to their ethical charge as soldiers. … I knew about another because he was outed by an evangelical roommate who had ‘baited’ him into admitting it.… And, I knew about the fourth one because after he died of wounds from an IED, his partner of four years wrote me ….’
… To date, one soldier killed in Iraq has been publicly identified as gay – Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers of Hampton, Fla., who was fatally wounded by an IED while on patrol in Baghdad in January 2008.
Rogers, who received a Purple Heart posthumously and his second Bronze Star, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. …
Mainstream news reports, hailing Rogers as a national hero, contained remembrances of the solder as exceptional, brilliant, religious, calming and compassionate …. But Rogers was not identified as a gay man until gay friends came forward to salute his service, as well as his personal opposition to DADT.
From the same article, we learn that on Memorial Day, 2008, Steve Ralls of PFLAG, and a friend of Rogers, said:
He deplored silence and understood all too well its impact. He felt the pain and isolation it could create. Those who spend so much time and energy propping up the military’s gay ban have tried to cover up the …significant … contribution that gay and lesbian Americans make to our Armed Forces.
In the meantime, gay service members are fighting and … dying on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Their stories are irrefutable proof of the disrespect and dishonor DADT imposes … .
Another friend of Alan Rogers, Sharon Alexander, Captain, US Army (1993-2003), recently spoke, via SLDN, about teaching her and her husband’s children about the meaning of Memorial Day.
Last year, I decided my daughters were old enough to visit Arlington with me on Memorial Day weekend, to join me in honoring Alan’s memory and to begin the process of understanding the human cost of war ….
At Alan’s grave, as my daughters placed the pictures they had colored for him by his headstone, I contemplated the depth of his sacrifice for our country. In the end, Alan gave his life, but even before that, he gave up an important part of his life in having to live under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’…
Six months later, in December of 2010, Congress passed the law to repeal (DADT), setting a process in motion that will ultimately end a long and shameful chapter in American history. In the days following the Senate vote and the President’s signing of the legislation, people who fought over the course of so many years to bring an end to (DADT) celebrated and shed tears of joy. We also cried tears of sadness for all the lives shattered by discrimination against gay and transgender people in the military over the course of our nation’s history. …
This Sunday morning after Mass, I will bring my girls to Arlington to visit Alan’s grave once again. …
We’re almost there, Alan.
Finally, from SLDN: “STILL AT RISK: Despite the President signing the bill authorizing repeal of DADT, it is still unsafe for service members to come out until 60 days after certification by President Obama, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen. … www.SLDN.org/StillAtRisk.”