Don't ask - Don't tell - RIP

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Study: Military gays don't undermine unit cohesion

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 8 minutes ago

Congress should repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law because the presence of gays in the military is unlikely to undermine the ability to fight and win, according to a new study released by a California-based research center.

The study was conducted by four retired military officers, including the three-star Air Force lieutenant general who in early 1993 was tasked with implementing President Clinton's policy that the military stop questioning recruits on their sexual orientation.

"Evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline or cohesion," the officers states.

To support its contention, the panel points to the British and Israeli militaries, where it says gay people serve openly without hurting the effectiveness of combat operations.

Undermining unit cohesion was a determining factor when Congress passed the 1993 law, intended to keep the military from asking recruits their sexual orientation. In turn, service members can't say they are gay or bisexual, engage in homosexual activity or marry a member of the same sex.

Supporters of the ban contend there is still no empirical evidence that allowing gays to serve openly won't hurt combat effectiveness.

"The issue is trust and confidence" among members of a unit, said Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, who retired in 1993 after working on the issue for the Army. When some people with a different sexual orientation are "in a close combat environment, it results in a lack of trust," he said.

The study was sponsored by the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which said it picked the panel members to portray a bipartisan representation of the different service branches. According to its Web site, the Palm Center "is committed to keeping researchers, journalists and the general public informed of the latest developments in the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy debate." Palm himself was "a staunch supporter of civil rights in the gay community," the site says.

Two of the officers on the panel have endorsed Democratic candidates since leaving the military — Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, who supports Barack Obama, and Marine Corps Gen. Hugh Aitken, who backed Clinton in 1996.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Minter Alexander, a Republican, was assigned in 1993 to a high-level panel established by the Defense Department to examine the issue of gays in the military. At one point, he signed an order that prohibited the military from asking a recruit's sexual orientation.

Alexander said at the time he was simply trying to carry out the president's orders and not take a position. But he now believes the law should be repealed because it assumes the existence of gays in the military is disruptive to units even though cultural attitudes are changing.

Further, the Defense Department and not Congress should be in charge of regulating sexual misconduct within the military, he said.

"Who else can better judge whether it's a threat to good order and discipline?" Alexander asked.

Navy Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan said he had no opinion on the issue when he joined the panel, having never confronted it in his 35-year military career. A self-described Republican who opposes the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war, Shanahan said he was struck by the loss of personal integrity required by individuals to carry out "don't ask, don't tell."

"Everyone was living a big lie — the homosexuals were trying to hide their sexual orientation and the commanders were looking the other way because they didn't want to disrupt operations by trying to enforce the law," he said.
"Completed his mission the right way, within the framework of the law".. at the age of 39? Oh my God.. you don't really have a clue do you?
Just because he said, "I may not get there with you" doesn't mean he wanted to commit suicide. He was killed, but it wasn't something he wanted for himself.
Sorry... I know this isn't a MLK thread. I just took offense to this statement.

Hi Sue,

I was a young girl when Dr. King made his speech. We discussed it in school. Were asked about our thoughts. The way I interpreted it, was that Dr. King may not see complete equality in his life time. But, future generations would. Thankfully, living longer then Dr. King, I have seen the positive effects of his dream. My neighborhood is no longer "whites only." It is multicultural with religious freedom, thank God. And my children and I have certainly benefited from this.

What once was "tabu" is now "who cares." No only really. Not any more. This is the way it should have always been. Sexual orientation is not a choice. Nor, is race. All men and women are equal, I believe, in the eyes of God.

And finally back to topic. I have no problem what so ever with gay/lesbian folks serving in our Armed Forces. I don't even think it should be an issue.
What this soldier did was heroic. He saved the lives of others. Does anyone think that for one moment, his friends, family and other soldiers give a damn as to what his sexual orientation was? I doubt it.
i went to a big gay pool party this weekend.

probably half the men there were in the military at one time or another.
by Eric Alva posted July 23

Last year, one of the first times I told my story was here on Huffington Post and I was overwhelmed by the positive and supportive response.

I've found the same is true as I've traveled around the country talking about the need to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Today, I was honored to testify today at a the first hearing to discuss the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. I'd like to share the story I told the House Armed Services Committee.

My middle name is "Fidelis" so you can probably guess I grew up in a military family. My father served in Vietnam, my grandfather in World War II. I guess you could say that service was in my blood.

I inherited that middle name from my father and grandfather. As you know, the

Marine credo, Semper Fi, is short for Semper Fidelis -- "always faithful." Loyalty is literally my middle name. So I guess you could say that serving my country was my calling.

I joined the military because I wanted to serve; I joined the Marines because I wanted a challenge. I was 19 years old. I was patriotic, idealistic; I was also gay.

For 13 years I served in the Marine Corps. I served in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope. I loved the discipline and the camaraderie, what I hated was concealing part of who I am.

My military service came to an end on March 21, 2003. It was the first day of the ground war in Iraq; mine was one of the first battalions in. Three hours into the invasion, we had stopped to wait for orders. I went back to the Humvee to retrieve something -- to this day I can't remember what - and, as I crossed that dusty patch of desert for the third time that day, I triggered a landmine.

I was thrown through the air, landing 10 or 15 feet away. The pain was unimaginable. My fellow marines were rushing to my aid, cutting away my uniform to assess the damage and treat my wounds. I remember wondering why they weren't removing my right boot -- it wasn't until later that I realized it was because that leg was already gone.

Another landmine detonated, though I couldn't hear it because the first had temporarily deafened me; it wasn't until later that I learned it had taken the leg of my friend and fellow Texan Brian Alaniz, then a medical corpsman in the Navy, as he tried to help me.

When I awoke, groggily, in a hospital tent outside Kuwait City my right leg was gone, my left leg was broken, and my right arm permanently damaged. I also had the dubious honor of being the first American injured in the war. I received the Purple Heart, along with visits from the President and First Lady. I was told I was a hero.

That landmine may have put an end to my military career that day, but it didn't put an end to my secret. That would come years later, when I realized that I had fought and nearly died to secure rights for others that I myself was not free to enjoy. I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me. More importantly, my experience disproved all the arguments against open service by gays and lesbians -- I knew I had to share my story.

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.

That was a very powerful thing for me, that I still had their trust, because the supporters of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are right about one thing - unit cohesion is essential. What my experience proves is that they're wrong about how to achieve it. My being gay, and even many of my colleagues knowing about it, didn't damage unit cohesion. They still put their lives in my hands, and when I was injured they risked those lives to save mine.

My experience gives me confidence in our military men and women. I am confident that, just as they are capable of immense professionalism and dedication to duty -- putting their lives on the line every day - our soldiers are equally capable of putting aside personal bias and standing shoulder to shoulder with gay, lesbian and bisexual service members. They are there to fulfill a mission, just as my unit and I were. They will do their duty.

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.

Those who support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" claim that they do so in the interest of unit cohesion. Well, as a former Marine, I can tell you what it takes to build unit cohesion: trust. It takes trust in your fellow unit members to have your back and do their job. And I can also tell you that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" does nothing but undercut that trust, and with it our nation's security. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" imposes secrecy and undermines unit cohesion, ousting gays and lesbians at the expense of the military readiness of the United States. Allowing gay, lesbian and bisexual service members to serve openly will only improve unit cohesion and in turn our military.

I strongly urged the members of the subcommittee to rethink this failed policy and I will continue to work to change it.

Eric Alva, 36, a native of San Antonio, Texas, was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 19 years old after attending community college. He graduated from Southwest High School in 1989.

Alva served in the Marine Corps for 13 years, and was a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines. At the age of 22, he was deployed to Somali and later stationed in Japan and Iraq. He reenlisted following the Gulf War.

On March, 21, 2003, Marine Staff Sgt. Alva was traveling in Iraq in a convoy to Basra with his battalion – where he was in charge of 11 soldiers – when he stepped on a landmine, breaking his right arm and damaging his leg so badly that it needed to be amputated. Alva received a Purple Heart and received a medical discharge from the military.

Alva, who was the first American wounded in the war in Iraq, has been on The Oprah Winfrey Show, various TV news shows and has appeared in People magazine and major newspapers.

Alva, who was a distance runner before his injury in Iraq, continues to run and ski with a prosthesis. Currently, he is studying for a degree in social work in San Antonio where he lives with his partner to continue, he says, to work for “social justice.”

This is Sgt Alva

Thank you Mrs. Springsteen for sharing wonderful article. What a brave hero this young man is. I don't care about America's policy or not being proud of him. I know. I am. And I am sure that millions of others would feel exactly the same. His "straight" friends said it perfectly. "So what?"
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