Guest Blogger

Stick it in a Manila envelope and keep it in a desk

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 14, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, gays in the military, open letter, President Obama, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, SLDN

Editors' Note: "Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama" is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration's defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal. The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president's desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993. By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes! We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.


Today's open letter to President Obama is from an active duty soldier serving in Baghdad. Because he is active duty, he is unable to share his name. It's after the jump.

May 14, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you from a kitchen in the state of Washington. The love of my life is in the other room. It has been eight months since I saw him last and I cherish every moment we spend together. Next week, my mid-tour leave will be over and I will return to Iraq and finish my second deployment. I don't know when I'll see my partner again.

When serving in a war zone, you learn quite a bit about yourself and what's important to you. I've had the chance to work on a close and personal level with the people of Iraq, and in doing so, I have realized more than ever that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans should not be taken for granted - we must protect them at all costs. These freedoms are essential to the very foundation of our society. Yet so many men and women who fight for these freedoms aren't allotted their own. Our freedom to love and be loved by whomever we choose. The freedom to live of a life of truth and dignity.

Recently I was informed that the military was investigating me for violating the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. Another service member had apparently "outed" me. At first I felt free: I didn't have to lie anymore. But after that initial sense of relief, I'm left knowing just how little the Pentagon and the United States government think of me.

Mr. President, my unit is extremely undermanned. We're working around the clock in Baghdad. My commander informed me that the Army cannot afford to lose me. I was told that they would prepare my discharge paperwork, "stick it in a Manila envelope, and keep it in a desk -- for now."

One moment they wanted to throw me out and the next they are hiding evidence to keep me in.

My comrades now know that I am gay, and they do not treat me any differently. Work runs as smoothly as ever, and frankly the only difference I see -- besides my pending job loss -- is that I am free of the burden of having to constantly watch my words and ensure my lies are believable.

Having this out in the open makes things a bit less stressful. But it's also clear the Army is only keeping me around until they are done with me. After I have served my two deployments -- and only a year shy of separating from the military honorably -- I suspect they will kick me to the street.

It's bad enough that there is a law that denies tens of thousands of service members from serving with integrity, but it's even worse when such a law is carried out with such inconsistency, without any warning of when it might come down.

If my suspicions are true, my discharge will move forward after my deployment. I am good enough to serve in war, but not at peace? I will never be at peace until this law is repealed - and neither will my partner. In fact, he won't even be informed if I am killed in action. That might be the hardest part for us both.

Mr. President, when you took office I remember watching your inauguration knowing that history was being made. I remember feeling like this weight was being lifted off of my shoulders. I truly believed in you, and I still do.

But, Mr. President, please keep your promise to me.

Please do everything in your power to help Congress repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year. Our government called upon us to fight for our country. So many of us answered the call; we did not delay. We were sent world's away to defend your freedoms. Mr. President, won't you fight for mine?

With deep respect,

A soldier returning to Baghdad

(The writer is currently serving and unable to identify himself publicly.)

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Michael @ | May 14, 2010 1:38 PM

"My commander informed me that the Army cannot afford to lose me. I was told that they would prepare my discharge paperwork, 'stick it in a Manila envelope, and keep it in a desk -- for now'."

TRANSLATION: When we no longer need you...or if you aren't killed...we'll shitcan you.

NOTHING better demonstrates the rotten-to-its-core hypocrisy of Barack Obama for refusing to freeze discharges even as he takes bows for saying that they're unjust, weaken national security, and he's "for" repeal...and the hypocrisy of Robert "Not Yet" Gates, et al., than the decades-long practice of stop-loss by the military of which this soldier's story is but one of thousands. They like to pretend that the idea is not only entirely new but ridiculously and dangerously unworkable.

Sadly, that history is but another of the weapons Gay Inc., has failed to use to expose the hypocrisy upon which the ban, even before it became DADT, is built.

As both Obama and the Pentagon shamelessly fight to keep DADT on the books claiming that the sky will fall if some committee isn't given enough time to come up with a way to prop it up against the horrible "impact" of gays serving openly, let's review how often they have let out gays serve when the need for bodies trumped bigotry, as documented by the Palm Center.

Based on research by Allen Berube for "Coming Out Under Fire," in World War II, an "adjutant general ordered the commanding general of the West Coast Air Corps Training Center in California to review the cases of some men ALREADY CONVICTED OF SODOMY "to determine their respective availability for military service" with "the view of conserving all available manpower for service in the Army." He canceled the men's dishonorable discharges and made them eligible for reassignment AFTER COMPLETING THEIR PRISON SENTENCES!

In 1945, facing manpower shortages during the final European offensive in Europe, Secty of War Harry Stimson, ordered a review of all gay discharges and ordered commanders to "salvage" homosexual soldiers for service whenever necessary.

The number of men discharged for being gay during WWII was only in the low thousands out of 16 MILLION men who served. That's A LOT of "looking the other way" no matter how low one thinks the incidence of homosexuality is in the population.

Before and after both the Korean and Vietnam wars, gay discharge #s reveal an obvious stop-loss pattern.

1950, during the Korean War, there were only 483 discharges.
1953, when the Armistice was signed, there were 1353 discharges.

1966 - THE NAVY ALONE discharged 1708 gays, but as the war in Vietnam escalated, they started to drop, and, by 1970 the Navy only discharged 461

After our last troops left Vietnam in 1975, discharges began to go up again.

During the first Gulf War, Pentagon spokesman LT Commander Ken Satterfield said in relation to gay discharges, "Any administrative procedure is dependent on operational considerations of the unit that would administer such proceedings." READ: if they need cannon fodder, gay cannon fodder is just as good as straight.

"Gay GI's Told, Serve Now, Face Discharge Later," read a "Wall Street Journal" headline on January 24, 1991.

In the "Army Commander's Handbook," updated in 1999 and still in effect, under the criterion of homosexuality: "if discharge is not requested prior to the unit's receipt of alert notification, discharge isn't authorized. Member will enter active duty with the unit."

Amplifying [or ignorant of] federal law 10 USC 12305 which Congress passed in 1983 and does the same thing [and Obama likes to pretend doesn't even exist], three days after 9/11, President Bush signed Executive Order #13223 that authorized the individual service branches to initiate a stop-loss which allowed them "to suspend certain laws relating to promotion, involuntary retirement, and separation" of military personnel.

The highest number of discharges under DADT were in the first year of the Bush fils administration, 2001. But with his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, they began to fall, and continued to for each year but one, until by his last full year in office annual discharges had dropped by more than half of what they were his first year.

In 2005, Kim Waldron, spokesperson at the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, acknowledged they were sending openly gay service members into combat in Iraq, insisting that it was just to prevent people from using claims of being gay to get out of combat. Sure it is.

Obama announces a build-up in Afghanistan, and discharges drop still further.

"[A]s a result of these policies and laws, the situation that arises during a time of deployment place[s] homosexuals in a no-win situation. They are allowed or ordered to serve at the risk of their own lives with the probability of forced discharge when hostilities end if their sexuality becomes an issue. By deploying suspected homosexuals with their units, the services bring into question their own argument that the presence of homosexuals seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission." - Congressional Research Service.

Congressionally mandated legal authority, the urging of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, historical precedent more than half-a-century long, majority public opposition to DADT, countless accounts like the one in the letter above of out servicemembers serving with distinction and without disruption, EXISTING military regulations more than adequate to handle the remote chance that any might occur, and the documentable need, as he, himself, has declared of EVERY fit servicemember [versus the exceptions being given to convicted felons and bribing foreign nationals with promises of citizenship for enlisting] in sustaining the nation's security when we are at war gives President Obama every justification and mountains of political cover for freezing discharges today, and "The Study" be damned.

Many keep asking if the President is reading these letters. But they forget that the evils, the injustice, the hypocrisy of DADT are not news to Barack Obama; that these letters echo things he's said himself multiple times, like this from 2007:

"[T]he Democratic Party faced a test of leadership, and our party failed that test. We had an opportunity to be leaders on the World stage in eliminating discrimination against gay and lesbian service members, to recognize the patriotism and heroism of the hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian citizens who have served our country. Instead, we bowed to fear and prejudice. We were told that American soldiers weren't ready to serve next to gay and lesbian comrades. We were told that our airmen, sailors and Marines would lose their 'unit cohesion' if we implemented a policy of equality. And so, rather than embracing leadership and principle, we embraced Don't Ask, Don't Tell-a policy that is antithetical to the values of honor and integrity that our military holds most dear."

TRANSLATION: that's what the husband of my opponent for the nomination did, but, trust me, I'll be different.