Guest Blogger

Today's open letter to Obama is extra special

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 20, 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 former Cadet Sara Isaacson. Sara was one of the soldiers photographed for Jeff Sheng's DADT photo series and he blogged about her shoot and shared some of the photos right after they met. At the time she wasn't willing to be identified by more than her first name, so today's letter is a very courageous step that we would like to acknowledge and honor. It's after the jump.

May 20, 2010SaraIsaacson2.jpg

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

Dear Mr. President,

Two Saturdays ago - that's the day I was looking forward to for four years. May 8, 2010: Commissioning Day.

My parents should have pinned on my rank of Second Lieutenant. I was prepared to take the oath. To swear that I'd support and defend our constitution. But instead, I am writing a letter to you. There was no pinning. There was only the sudden reality that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" still very much exists and is still very much enforced.

I wish that I could tell you stories about my distinguished military career, deployments, and awards. I cannot share such stories. This past January with you as my Commander-in-Chief, the opportunity to prove my merit as an Army Officer was taken away simply because I'm a lesbian.

Inspired by my grandfather's service, I made it my goal when I was 13-years-old to spend a career as an Army doctor. This dream was a driving force for me throughout high school and helped me to be accepted at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a 4-year Army ROTC scholarship.

Being a Cadet has been an integral part of my identity since the first day I stepped foot on campus. I worked hard to be the best Cadet I could, and felt an obligation to my future soldiers to be a great officer. I was one of the most committed and dedicated members of my battalion. My efforts were rewarded with an "Excellent" rating this summer at the Leader Development and Assessment Camp, placing me in the top 3 Cadets in my platoon and top 20% of the nearly 5,500 Cadets who passed through Ft. Lewis.

I had the opportunity to spend three weeks at an internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where I decided that I wanted to see what life was like in the active duty Army before attending medical school. Instead of immediately pursuing my medical degree, I was fortunate to receive my first choice active duty placement working in the Air Defense Artillery.

My service to my country has centered on the Army core values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. My training has instilled these values in me, and I hold them in the highest regard. No one can take them away from me, and without them, I have nothing to fall back on.

In November of last year, I accepted that I'm a lesbian. It was the values of Honor and Integrity that forced me to come out to my Commander. I agonized wondering if I could go through my career lying about who I am, living in fear of being outed, and putting up emotional walls between me and my soldiers--the very people I must trust with my life and who would need to trust me with theirs.

As much as I longed to be an officer, I realized I was not willing to compromise my Integrity to do so.

Mr. President, I tell you this not looking for sympathy but rather to plead with you to do everything possible to end this arcane, discriminatory law. It hurts our military every day to force our men and women in uniform to lie or else face discharge.

You gave me hope that I might be able to serve honestly and openly in your State of the Union Address. If you repeal this law today, I'll sign up to serve my country tomorrow.

Please do the right thing. Do not let any more service members be fired for being honest about who they are. Please work with Congress and the Pentagon to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year.

Mr. President, we can't wait any longer.

Very Respectfully,

Former Cadet Sara Isaacson
United States Army

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Michael @ | May 20, 2010 10:40 AM

As the clock ticks closer and closer to determining the fate of gay servicemembers for years to come, it is no criticism of the service and sacrifice of their authors to say that, by themselves, these appeals to conscience are like trying to kill an elephant with a flyswatter. And that elephant is the White House-Pentagon alliance to kill repeal with delay which member after member of Congress is hiding behind to avoid voting to end DADT.

We have to do two more things, both speaking to how DADT hurts ALL Americans.

First, rip the excuse of "just doing what the Pentagon wants" out of their cold, cowardly hands by PUBLICLY denouncing it as the Big Lie it is. The option of Repeal Now/Implement After the Study has ALWAYS been there, and they know it but the public doesn't.

Second, give Congress reasons just as big, reasons their constitutents will care about, TO vote now for repeal.

There are two, sometimes mentioned but never really "marketed" over 17 years of throwing spit wads at DADT. It is time they were promoted in mainstream media press releases, press conferences, and advertising.

1. DADT wastes taxpayer dollars which even if the US economy was still not like a huge, gaping wound would be inexcusable. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on training gay servicemembers only to spend millions more on discharging them and recruiting and training their replacements. Members of Congress do NOT want their constituents told they are wasting tax dolllars.

2. DADT weakens national security. The President has repeatedly said this himself. He has also said that such discharges hurt America most "when we are fighting two wars," and that there is "an urgency" to ending them. Whether it's a linguist who speaks the languages of terrorists, highly trained pilots, intelligence officers, medical and nursing personnel, or anyone with any "mission critical" skill, DADT effectively aids and abets our enemies. Voters need to know this.

These moving letters demonstrate not just why DADT is wrong but why we cannot betray their authors with a weaker fight to defeat it than others are waging to defend it.

Sara, not only did Jeff write an eloquent post, but he also got to share your writings with us a bit early, eh? Glad to see you're participating and that you've found the courage to come out; I know what a hard and difficult decision it is.