To My Military Friends

Lieutenant Dan Choi's portrait

Lieutenant Dan Choi, 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, New York National Guard. Before that, he served in Iraq as an infantryman and an Arabic linguist. He graduated from West Point with degrees in Arabic and environmental engineering.

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal is coming. I’ve heard some comments about such an event in the past, some good, some bad. To those who have a problem with it, I have this to say to you:

If you worry about unit cohesion or something similar, I ask you to consider something. You went through the same basic training as everyone else, including every soldier discharged through this policy – more than 13,000 to date, 600 a year at minimum, at an estimated cost of over $363 million. If you believe that gay people can’t have the same discretion, the same respect, the same discipline, and the same honor that you do, I ask you to consider what makes you a soldier and realize that gay servicemembers have the same qualities. Our military has lost decorated veterans. It has lost invaluable, irreplaceable Arab linguists in a time of war. All because of whom they fall in love with. It’s time to look at gay soldiers as soldiers first and gay people second, not the other way around.

Dozens of other nations allow gay servicemen and women with no question. You yourself have almost certainly served with one or more gay men or lesbians, and I can’t imagine for one second you didn’t give them your absolute trust to defend you and your group. The nation is asking them to dishonor themselves by lying, to break that trust. No self-respecting soldier should see that as compatible with military service – indeed, unit cohesion depends on trusting your fellow soldiers to be straight with you, no pun intended. How can this policy support that?

I am unable to serve my country for other reasons related to my health, but I realize – and I hope that you do as well – that a person’s sexual orientation has no bearing on his or her ability to fire a weapon, to program a computer, to make decisions in the heat of battle, to perform admirably in the defense of his or her country and fellow troops, as you do. It has no bearing on someone’s ability to be a soldier. And our military and our nation will be stronger for realizing it.

And if you subscribe to the ideas of Charles Moskos, the man who came up with the policy for President Clinton (and the man who taught me Sociology) – which can be summed up with the actual direct quote, “I should not be forced to shower with a gay” – grow up.

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