By Patrick Appel
Eric Alva, a former marine who lost his leg to a landmine, discusses his experience with DADT:
Even under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I was out to a lot of my fellow Marines. The typical reaction from my straight, often married friends was "so what?" I was the same person, I did my job well, and that's all they cared about. Today I'm godfather to three of those men's children.
Normally, I was cautious about whom I divulged my secret to -- I felt I had to be. Then one evening, out with some guys from our unit, I let my guard down. One of the guys commented on some women in the bar; when my response was less than enthusiastic he asked me, jokingly, if I was gay. "As a matter of fact, I am," I responded. He swore to keep my secret, but I suppose he thought it was just too good a piece of gossip to pass up. He was wrong. No one he told cared. The response from everyone was the same as it had been from the friends in whom I'd confided: "so what?" I was still Eric, still one of them, still a Marine; I was still trusted.[...]
As a former Marine and patriotic American, I am deeply disturbed that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is discouraging young patriots from joining the Military at a time when our country needs their service. I am horrified that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" forces trained and ready troops to choose between serving their country and living openly -- a choice I myself would have been faced with, had a landmine not made it for me. I am appalled at the involuntary separation of thousands of skilled service members during a time of war -- threatening our country's military readiness for no good reason. I am also thankful for the acceptance of my unit members, whose support protected me from a similar fate.
My experiences serving in the military demonstrate that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a solution looking for a problem. Since leaving the military, the opportunities I've had to speak with Americans across the country, both gay and straight, have showed time and again that the American people support open service by gay, lesbian and bisexual troops.
Looking back on my years in the military, I am proud. I'm proud, not only of my service and my sacrifice, but of the way my unit members accepted me. I'm proud, not only of how American culture is becoming more accepting, but of how the American military is evolving, too. Now is the time to revisit this ill-considered law. It is costing us far too much, and purchasing us nothing in return.