A reader writes:
I was an active duty Navy officer from 1990-95 stationed on a Ticonderoga Class cruiser based in Norfolk, and in spite of being fairly liberal and the son of hard-core Kennedy Democrats, I was a bit skeptical of gays in the military (military cohesion and all that) and thought DADT was a decent compromise. That is, I was a supporter until I actually had to participate in a discharge hearing for one of my sailors.
A hard working young Boatswain's Mate Seaman (E2) in my Division was arrested for underage drinking at a gay bar in Norfolk. The authorities, as they are prone to do in military towns, turned him over to the base for disciplinary action. At the time, I did not think much of the raid, as I was fairly fresh out of college where underage drinking raids occurred all the time. In hind sight though, it was clearly a witch hunt as I never recall a straight bar being raided for underage drinking. I assumed it would be the usual drinking related discipline we doled out all the time (restriction to the ship, classes on drinking, etc.) however once the base legal office got involved it turned into a hearing on his sexuality.
The shipboard legal officer (not an attorney, but ostensibly his defense lawyer) started the process and it became very clear this policy was, in a word, stupid. His entire chain of command from his Leading Petty Officer (E5) to his Chief Petty Officer (E7) to me, his Division Officer, gave him stellar reviews and testified to his hard work and excellent seamanship. To see these salty, blue collar guys give impassioned defenses of this sailor was eye-opening to say the least. They could not have cared less what he did or whom he spent time with on liberty, but they wanted him to stay part of our crew. I cannot recall exactly how he defended himself, but I do recall that he essentially had no options - it was a done deal. Our CO had no option either and I could tell it tore him up. The sailor was discharged with an OTH (Other Than Honorable). This was about 1994, and I can imagine these types of attitudes have become even more pervasive. I fully understand this was not a ground combat unit in Iraq or Afghanistan, but Navy ships are obviously very close quarters and the deployments were all too real. Based on this experience, I believe this policy should be repealed as soon as possible. We simply cannot afford to lose quality members of our Armed Forces.
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