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Pride and Patriotism


Denny Meyer

The summer of 2010 seems to be a time which will be remembered in American military history for its anachronistic lack of insight.  LT Dan Choi, a Korean American and 1st Lt Robin Chaurasiya, an Indian American were discharged under DADT for being gay.  And West Point Cadet Katherine Miller, a Japanese American, resigned rather than endure further homophobia.  They are hardly the only minorities hounded out of our armed forces because of who they are; but the profound loss of these three happened within a few weeks this summer, at a time when the policy of exclusion should be in its last days.  I have the sense that the vital importance to our armed forces of their diversity  was not even considered in the deliberations leading to their dismissal.  The deliberations seem to have focused simply on whom they happen to love.

All three devoted their final high school years to preparing themselves physically and academically to qualify to enter our officer service academies.  Like our president, they were determined to overcome ignorant stereotypes about who can lead.  Like our president, they sacrificed the usual teenage fun times in order to study and work out, to excel to achieve a goal.

In speaking with these three exceptional Americans over the summer, I was struck by the fact that each one is intensely patriotic, and each is the child or grandchild of an immigrant.  Being a child of WWII Holocaust refugees to America, I wondered if they shared my own experience, two generations later.  During the war in Vietnam, I volunteered to serve because of a strong desire to "pay my country back for my family's freedom."  That sense of patriotism overpowered the inconvenient fact that I am gay.  I thought, "I want to do this, I can do this, I will sacrifice that part of my personal freedom to do this."  More than 40 years later, these three young Americans told me that they had the same sense, the same thoughts, the same flag-billowing patriotism and willingness to sacrifice in order to serve, despite being gay.  And to this day, some 40 years later, our armed forces still have the same sense of discrimination and willingness to exclude these American born patriots from serving.

Some things have changed and progressed.  When I served during and after Vietnam, I had no expectation of equality; I served in silence in a deep camouflage closet.  Today, our proud young leaders and cadets have every expectation of equality regardless of race, religion, or gender; proud to serve as women of color and or as Americans with ethnic identities.  They expect zero tolerance of any form of discrimination, including discrimination against gay and lesbian service members who are forbidden to speak about who they love.  That is the policy but not the reality.

Leadership is the principle element in successfully implementing a policy of non-discrimination; and the three lost this summer were exactly the ones with the potential needed by our military to progress to a future free of discrimination.

Between them, Lieutenants Choi and Chaurasiya speak 10 languages (Korean, Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Urdu, Turkish, German, Luganda, and Swahili, as well as English).  LT Choi, an Iraq combat veteran, is an experienced infantry officer and platoon leader. 1st Lt Chaurasiya's specialty is communications.  Former Cadet Miller has a background in non-discrimination and diversity education; she has been accepted to begin continuing her education at Yale this month.  Did we really want to loose these three along with all the others driven out this year, pending the repeal of the policy, either by involuntary discharge or declining to reenlist due to the continuation of the DADT policy that requires hiding who they are?

Denny Meyer
former SFC, USAR

Contributing Editor: Andrea Egert

  2010 Gay Military Signal