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November 12, 2009

An article about how Armistice Day turned into Veteran’s Day. And as I was clicking through a link to Doonesbury from @zephoria, the social media maven I follow on Twitter, I discovered that Doonesbury on Slate hosts The Sandbox, a milblog with posts from service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve been reading and the posts are full of philosophy, practical advice, history, humanity, survival tips, Disney discounts, humility, bravery, isolation, comradeship…

I almost ended up in the military twice (although my mother and a buddy of mine in the ROTC program claimed I would have ended up out or in a military prison for insubordination.) In high school, I was interested in and recruited by Navy ROTC, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do for the four years of college and thought it a bad idea to commit to something for five years after that. And then when I got to Northwestern and saw the hours my buddy got up to do PT and drill team, I figured it had been a good decision.

After college, I didn’t have any grand plan, thought travel might be fun, and returned to the military thought. The Marines didn’t want me, not in shape enough, so they suggested the Air Force. The Air Force offered Monterey, foreign languages and adventures. But I was gay, no doubts or apologies, and I wanted to see if anything would develop with Gayle. I wasn’t going to lie. A buddy of mine had lived an entirely double life because the military was something he could not be separated from and gay was something he couldn’t get over — and there was the handy girlfriend who refused to notice. I watched him do it for four years of college and some years after and it was a terrible thing. We once had a half serious discussion about marriage so he would have a cover and I would have health insurance and could keep writing or whatever it was I wanted to do.

A friend from high school led the hidden life with separate mailing addresses. And I sat there in a military recruiter’s office, very curious but unwilling and unable to lie for opportunity.

Over the years, I have read so much about the treatment of women and gays in the military and sometimes I thought, perhaps my mother was right; I would have clocked the first person who yelled in my ear at 0 dark thirty or used a word I didn’t care to be referred to as.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was never a solution. The time has long passed for its reversal. The Advocate reports today, very fittingly, that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is to be included in next year’s Department of Defense Authorization Bill. The Advocate has also been running excellent articles on gays in the military, their supporters, Congressman and Iraq veteran Patrick J. Murphy, and even one article with an undercover reporter trying to get the view of the average straight soldier in the PX.

So thanks to veterans everywhere for supporting freedom, this country and the Constitution. And I hope that one day soon, this will be a country where we really will be free, with equal rights for every citizen. And I can finally marry the woman I had hopes of getting to know better many years ago.

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