Huge majorities now favor ending the ban on openly gay servicemembers. There is no longer a shred of an argument in its favor. More interesting, opinion within the military has changed a great deal since the issue first exploded over a decade ago. Many servicemembers, especially younger ones, are fine with gay colleagues. Here's an email from a cadet in the Military Academy. I double-checked its veracity. It tells an important story:
"You had focused a while ago on what it meant to 'come out' in America today. Well … I have done it now, in one of the most unlikely places to find a good reception for doing so (at least that's what I thought). I am a cadet at the United States Military Academy. I knew what it meant to be in the Army when I chose to accept a commission here. The way the Corps is organized, we stay with the same group of about thirty to forty people within our class year for the four years. That being the case, we grow very close spending our summers and academic years together. After the first two years, I had to make a decision to stay at West Point or leave the Academy because if you attend classes on the first day of your Junior (or Cow) year, you can no longer resign with no penalty—you must, after that day, pay back the entire tuition for the first two years.
I made the decision that I would tell my friends at the Academy within my company and let them decide if I should stay or go. If they reacted as I hoped, I would be able to spend my last two years at the Academy without having to lie or otherwise hide myself from them. I am still here. Almost a year later and the only thing that has changed is we are closer and work better together than ever before. The other guys (and girls) in my company had worked with me and knew my value to the team.
One of the strangest reactions I got was a majority of the guys in my company apologizing to me for the first two years. Quite a few have told me how truly sorry they were if they ever said anything offensive or otherwise even gave me the impression that they would have been anything but accepting of me. I guess that is one of the blessings of the military … it is one of the few realms of society where a person's value is directly related to his (or increasingly, her) job performance and dependability. Because of that, the people I live and work with care nothing about my sexual orientation, but instead focus on the working relationships we’ve built over the last two and a half years.
This is how the world changes: one act of courage at a time.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.