Marine Corps Captain Joshua Gibbs started his career in the Corps in 1998 as a Reserve tank driver and has done two tours in Iraq. He’s a well-respected, highly decorated officer who has served our country well. And, he’s an outspoken heterosexual ally of the lesbian and gay community. In fact, he’s such an eloquent advocate of LGBT service personnel that the United States Marine Corps has shipped him off to Japan after he dared to speak out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In what appears to be an unbelievable ‘first,’ the U.S. military has seemingly punished a heterosexual service member for speaking out against the ban.
The Marine Corps Times op-ed by Captain Gibbs wasn’t his first; he’s written about many other topics in the news before. It also wasn’t unprecedented; other active duty officers have questioned the ban in the same newspaper before. But the Marine Corps’ response – to reassign Captain Gibbs and order him not to talk to the media again – is unusual and unacceptable. Gibbs has spent his military career fighting to protect, among other things, the American people’s freedom of speech. In return, the country he serves has stripped him of that same right. But I have a feeling Captain Gibbs will return and fight with us again . . . because that's what real Marines do.
Gibbs originally wrote his op-ed in response to remarks by General Peter Pace, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the morality of lesbians and gays. “Am I the only one who feels that, of all the arguments, this one is a little too chauvinistic?,” he wrote. “Or am I wrong to assume that no one, regardless of gender, could ever resist the allure of a man in a foxhole who hasn't showered in three days?”
“Why do we still cling to the as-yet unproven notion that if gay men and women are allowed to serve openly, unit cohesion and morale would suffer?,” Gibbs wondered. “This assertion is an insult to the professionalism of the U.S. military and an affront to our Constitution.”
And apparently, well-thought out opinions are an affront to our military.
Just one week after his column appeared, Captain Gibbs was notified that he was being relieved of duty due to a “loss of confidence” in his abilities. He has been reassigned to 3rd Marines Logistics group on Okinawa, Japan. His commanders told him, “It is a mark against me, but not one I can’t recover from,” Gibbs said. And his command is barely hiding the fact that Gibbs is being punished for being too friendly with the gays.
“The commanding officer’s decision was to relieve Capt. Gibbs from duty at that specific station,” said Capt. John Niemann, a spokesman for 8th Marine Corps District told Marine Corps Times. “It was a result of judgment and decisions he made and not a result of performance or views held.”
But, like a true Marine, Gibbs isn’t letting this temporary setback divert him from his original mission.
“Honestly, my military career will be coming to an end shortly,” by choice, he recently said.
“I was told, we don’t comment on policy, that’s not our job. That’s what I want to do — I want to be somewhere where I can make change happen,” he said.
And by refusing to sit down and take discrimination as a given, Gibbs is also taking an unforgettable stand in favor of doing the right thing.
“There comes a time when people must stand up in the face of intolerance and push this country forward for the good of future generations,” he wrote in his original op-ed. “Now is the time to stand. Now is the time to push.”
That is, after all, what real Marines do.
We should all be proud to have Captain Joshua Gibbs standing – and pushing for change – with us. The military may be able to reassign him to Japan, but I have a feeling they won't be able to silence him for long.