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  COUNTDOWN TO REPEAL

We Salute You: 8 Gay And Lesbian Servicemembers Who Paved The Way For The DADT Repeal

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Today we celebrate the complete repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the end of the ban on gays and lesbians in the U.S. military. But the journey to this day is more than 18 years old—it’s older than the United States itself. We’re taking a look at some of the men and women who served this nation honorably but were discharged for being homosexuals; whose courage under fire helped to pave the way for open service.

There are thousands of others, of course—from Prussian military genius Lieutenant General Frederick Von Steuben (who trained George Washington’s Colonial army) and WWII veteran John McNeill (who received a Purple Heart and spent six months as a German POW) to Second Lieutenant Sandy Tsao (who wrote to President Obama to lift the ban and received a personal response) and Staff Sergeant Eric Alva (the first Marine seriously injured in the Iraq War). We salute all of them.

Happy (early) Veterans Day

Image via  USACE Public Affairs

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  • 17 Comments
    • WillBFair
      WillBFair

      To Baron Von Steuben: Smooches!

      Sep 20, 2011 at 9:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • otis
      otis

      No mention of Kieth Meinhold? Granted he was what let to DADT, but still he was out front. Good guy and deserves notice.

      Sep 20, 2011 at 9:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • kawneekwa
      kawneekwa

      OK someone tell that bitch Obama now he can really, really, really stop his Justice department defense of DADT. Not tomorrow, or after a couple of months, or when his critics won’t notice.

      Sep 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com
      Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com

      MANY for these stories when too few believe that the fight has only been about DADT and that it only started a couple of years ago. But, with respect, some corrections:

      1. Then just “Tracy Thorne” outed himself BEFORE Clinton even had gotten the Dem nomination for Prez , and because Bush had, oddly, not made an issue of Clinton’s then-still-pretty-much-under-the-radar promise to lift the ban, the proverbial shit did not hit the fan until after he was elected. And, yes, Keith Meinhold deserved to be included as he outed himself on ABC the same day Tracy did [and ended up being allowed to stay in the Navy by court order], contrary to “otis’es” assertion he did not lead to DADT.

      2. SEVENTEEN YEARS before NBC’s made-for-TV movie about Grete Cammermeyer, they broadcast into American living rooms a movie about Leonard Matlovich. Cammermeyer deserves huge appreciation for what she did when she found out she was NOT going to get the pass she admits having expected because of her record; but she did not volunteer to risk her career as Leonard, Tracy, Keith, Miriam Ben-Shalom, Zoe Dunning, Justin Elzie, and Dan Choi did.

      3. Yours is the first assertion I’ve ever read that Fehrenbach is believed to be the highest ranking officer affected by DADT [though I've seen that CLAIM about the insufferably self-worshiping Mike Almy]. There is simply NO available evidence to back that up, or even reason to believe it’s true. More than 99% of people discharged never go public, and the highest ranking officers with so must personal worth invested in their careers would be the least likely. [Recall, Fehrenbach wasn't even out to his family before being caught.] To the best of my knowledge, the Pentagon has never broken down discharges by specific rank [though they have by "occupation code"]—only by the overall number of enlisted versus the overall number of officers. Second, he was NOT discharged, but only recommended for discharge. Finally, he remains in the service more than three years after the Air Force learned he was gay not because of the court action he filed [because its time limits have run out] but, most likely, because Obama, Inc., decided to give him a pass [and a retirement package worth some $1 million during his expected lifetime] because he played nice while they shit canned Dan Choi, keep sending him bills for “unearned” pay, and “vindictively prosecuted” him [and we 12 arrested with him] because he didn’t.

      For video of Leonard, Tracy, and Dan, please see:

      Sep 21, 2011 at 6:17 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com
      Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com

      ARGGH! That should read: “MANY THANKS for these stories….”

      Sep 21, 2011 at 6:18 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com
      Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com

      Oh, God, this is what I get for trying to make sense at 3:30 in the morning. The correct video link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkPpRK3IT_w

      Sep 21, 2011 at 6:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • otis
      otis

      I didn’t say anything to the contrary. Just that Kieth was one of the early “movers” of what has opened the military up to gays and lesbians serving openly

      Sep 21, 2011 at 8:27 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ian
      Ian

      Here’s a heartwarming clip of a 21 year-old soldier coming out to his dad:

      http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/dad_im_gay_20110920/

      Sep 21, 2011 at 9:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dennis
      Dennis

      Thanks for all you have done.

      Sep 21, 2011 at 11:43 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mav
      Mav

      J.D. Smith (Josh Seefried) needs to be on this list.

      Sep 21, 2011 at 11:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JKB
      JKB

      Nice set.

      Sep 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • alienmindtrick
      alienmindtrick

      People forget that prior to DADT, it was simply illegal to be gay and serve in the US military. When I served, our battalion commander, (name redacted), initiated a witch hunt to eliminate gays, lesbians and atheists (while it isn’t/wasn’t illegal to be an atheist and serve, he looked for any excuse, discharging one linguist for being 2 pounds over the weight limit). Since I fall into 2 of those 3 categories, I was high on his list to discharge. Luckily, I was at the end of my term of service, so I left voluntarily, but he tried to KEEP me in so that he could have a courts martial and send me to Mannheim, the US Federal holding barracks in Mannheim, Germany. He made it very clear what he wished to do, which worked in my favor. So I had to enlist the aid of the then-Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sam Nunn, D-GA, in order to get out without being jailed…for simply being gay. Tuton had gone to great lengths to carry out his witch hunt, using two junior enlisted men to seduce soldiers of rank in order to prosecute and discharge them. Just after I left the unit and the Army, Congress sent a delegation to Augsburg to find out why Tuton had the lowest re-enlistment rate…not just in Europe…not just in the Army…but in the entire US military. And since we were an Intelligence battalion, US taxpayers had spent MILLIONS of dollars training each one of us, sending us to language school for a year or more, as well as lengthy and entailed technical training. He lost his command, but in an upside-down turn of events, went on to get his full bird (the rank of colonel). It was at that time (the late 80s, early 90s) that Fundamentalist Christians were infiltrating the military…all branches…in order to create what they thought of as God’s Army. And that always made me wonder…if their god is so powerful…why does he need an army?

      Sep 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      I’m surprised that Keith Meinhold wasn’t in the list.

      http://navyboy.com/bio.htm

      Sep 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com
      Michael Bedwell@LeonardMatlovich.com

      @Mav:

      “JD Smith” is a self-promoting, self-serving COWARD who didn’t even have the balls to come out after the 9th Circuit reinstated the injunction on investigations and discharges over TWO MONTHS AGO. And the magazine he pimps has been filled with ignorance about what actually is and is not banned by DOMA and has been totally kiss ass of the Pentagon and their intent to deny gay troops equal protections IN the military. But, hey, he has a book to sell.

      Sep 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • otis
      otis

      Cam,

      That was what I said, twice…

      Sep 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Robert in NYC
      Robert in NYC

      Let’s not forget, although DADT has now been repealed, gay servicemen and women still are denied federal benefits when it comes to their partners, married, civil unioned or otherwise. If one were to die while on duty, his or her partner still would not be presnted with the flag. The federal governement still does NOT recognize same-sex couples in the military as legitimate relationships or family for that matter. So we have a long way to go to make sure that DADT repeal guarantees that our gay brothers and sisters in the military are treated equally.

      Sep 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Robert in NYC
      Robert in NYC

      Let’s not forget, although DADT has now been repealed, gay servicemen and women still are denied federal benefits when it comes to their partners, married, civil unioned or otherwise. If one were to die while on duty, his or her partner still would not be presented with the flag, let alone receive any benefits. The federal governement still does NOT recognize same-sex couples in the military as legitimate relationships or family for that matter. So we have a long way to go to make sure that DADT repeal guarantees that our gay brothers and sisters in the military are treated equally.

      Sep 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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