Sgt. Denny's Journal
a Day Without DADT
Dan Choi enlists, almost
by Denny Meyer
Thursday, October 21, 2010
In a van taking disabled vets to the VA early this
morning, the chatter was about DADT. The old
straight men were confused about the latest
developments. Could openly gay people now
enlist or not? Tuesday, the news was full of
the fact that they could. For those who didn't
go to bed early on Wednesday, the new news was that
they might, again, not be allowed to enlist. I
was amazed that folks not directly concerned
were even aware or interested in the whole business.
Perhaps it was because all the old straight vets in
this van know that I'm gay; we ride together to the
VA several times per week and have been sharing this
ride for years. They accept me as just another
cranky old Vietnam Era disabled vet. The Sgt
First Class insignia on my vets cap may help.
There was a pause while they waited for me to speak
up and explain what the hell was going on.
"Guys," I sighed, "It's six thirty AM, I'm still
trying to sleep and I've got gas this morning."
The men on either side of me grumbled and scootched
away a few inches; ah
camaraderie, I love it even after all these years!
In fact, I'd been up and on-line at 5 AM checking
the latest DADT news alerts. Two days ago, on
Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 19th, a week after Judge
Phillips imposed an injunction against further
enforcement of DADT, the Pentagon issued orders to
all recruiting centers to allow openly gay people to
enlist. That afternoon, at 3:15 PM, here in
New York City, I got a phone call from Dan Choi.
He told me, "I'm going
to the Times Square Recruiting Station to enlist; I
want YOU there at 4 PM!" "B b but, I'm an old
disabled man, way out an hour away by bus and
train..." "Just BE there," he shouted, "I want YOU
there; take a taxi!" This is what I get for being
friends with a former officer.
||I grabbed my veterans cap and cane and rushed out
the door, jumped in a taxi and urged the
driver to 'race.' He drove like a madman, saying,
"You're a veteran, I'll do it for you, no
worries!" We got to the heart of the universe,
Times Square, at 4:01 PM. There was a crush of TV
reporters in the small outdoor entry ramp to the
Recruiting station, with a ring of curious tourists
around that, and a ring of riot police armed with
machine guns and black metal helmets beyond them.
Yes, Machine Guns! - These were special NYC
terrorist attack response units, or something like
that, pulled off from
guarding train stations to react to 'Dan Choi at the
Recruiting Station.' You have to imagine the wild
|Dan was giving an inspirational speech while
knocking on the locked door of the recruiting
station, with TV cameras zoomed in on the
poignant symbolism of him "knocking on the door."
Finally, he was allowed inside and the door was shut
and locked to keep the crush of reporters out. No
matter, Dan twittered a constant report, from
within, on his progress.
||Finally, after an hour, Dan emerged into a crush of
TV cameras and reporters holding microphone booms,
shouting questions. Everyone was jostling for
position to get good camera angles. Amazingly, all
these folks sort of knew each other and were being
very careful and polite with each other while
competing for the best camera angle. Except, that
is, for one female reporter; she violently shoved me out of her way,
nearly knocking me over, - a clearly Disabled Vet!
|Dan announced that he had first tried to
join the Marines, but was a year too old. He then
sat down to enlist in the Army. He was treated
politely and professionally and they began to
process through the paperwork. He'd been properly
advised, as the Pentagon had instructed, that the
suspension of DADT could be reversed, which would
affect his enlistment. A snag arose with his
previous discharge paperwork. They had to
check on an unfamiliar discharge code; he'd have to
return on Wednesday morning.
questions. Then, the
police moved in, in response to a complaint from
within the recruiting station that to door was
blocked by the crowd. Everyone had to "MOVE NOW!"
Cops were shouting. While that was happening, ABC
News asked me, off to the side of the riot, "How
would Dan Choi, a former LT, be treated as a Spec 4?"
I pointed to the SFC insignia on my cap. "Any
professional NCO leading any unit in today's
military would see to it that he is treated with the
utmost respect, no problem." I said.
Then Dan, a reporter friend,
another activist, and I, jumped into a taxi and
headed to CNN where Dan was scheduled to be
interviewed. While waiting, we sat down for
drinks and a snack. Dan was relaxing, cracking
everyone up with wild jokes. I'm in constant
awe of his courage and commitment to serve.
He's already served for eleven years, was an
infantry platoon leader, is an Iraq combat veteran,
and an Arabic linguist.
And now he's determined to sign up as an enlisted
man and likely be deployed to Afghanistan.
Then they headed for the studio and I bailed out and
That was Tuesday afternoon and evening.
On Wednesday morning, Dan
reported back to the recruiting station for aptitude
testing, more paperwork, and he was scheduled for a
physical the following week. So, still not
actually enlisted but being processed.
Then, late Wednesday, a three judge panel granted a
brief stay, requested by the Dept. of Justice,
reversing the suspension of DADT. As of this
afternoon, Thursday Oct. 21, the Pentagon revised
its advisory saying openly gay people could apply,
for the time being they could not actually enlist.
While a stay was almost
inevitable with the administration appealing Judge
Phillip's decisions; the fact is that there was a
week without DADT, and a Day of open enlistments.
What that means is that: "The Cork is out of the
bottle and no matter what reversals and delays will
occur, it cannot be put back in."
It was obvious, during the week without DADT, that
no one on active duty should come out yet. But,
Dan Choi made it clear, during the Day of open
enlistments, that anyone gay who wants to join with
"integrity" should only sign up openly.
What became clear, during the past week, is that the
Pentagon was prepared to proceed with a new non
discriminatory policy which was disseminated down
the chain of command. They demonstrated that it can
be done, rapidly and calmly, with clear orders.
When Dan Choi entered the recruiting office, a
Marine sergeant recruiter shook his hand, welcomed
him, and smiled. When Dan emerged an hour later, he
reported that he was treated with professionalism
and respect. All this was in accordance with the
Pentagon orders issued earlier in the day. While
his enlistment may not go forward in the coming
days, due to the stay of the injunction; what
matters is that the episode demonstrated that a very
openly gay recruit can be and was treated properly
without fuss nor "disruption to the good order of
the armed forces."
© 2010 Gay Military Signal
All photos © 2010 Denny Meyer