In a closed-to-the-media military panel in Syracuse yesterday, New York National Guard First Lt. Dan Choi was given the fate Barack Obama told him he should expect: It’s time to go. A four-member Army board yesterday heard Choi’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell case and concluded he should be discharged.
The decision now falls into the hands of Lt. Gen. Thomas Miller of the First Army Division, and Gen. Craig McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Choi, an Arabic linguist and Iraq vet, hasn’t been quiet since the day he came out public on Rachel Maddow’s television show. From there, he’s made numerous media appearances, taken part in pride parades and protests, and as the most public face of Knights Out — the West Point society of openly gay servicemembers — likely isn’t going away until the president makes good on his promise to repeal DADT.
“Today was a setback for me,” said Choi yesterday evening after he learned of his fate. “I got in trouble for saying three words. ‘I am gay.'”
Tuesday’s hearing was held in Syracuse because it is the headquarters of the 27th Brigade Combat Team, which oversees Choi’s National Guard unit, the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry. It was closed to the public and the media.
Choi and his attorney provided the hearing panel with a disc that contained letters and petitions signed by 260,000 people supporting Choi’s efforts to stay in the National Guard.
“I served with him for six months on the sands of Iraq. Dan was — and is — a fine officer, one of the best I’ve ever met,” wrote Army Maj. Jessica McCoy. “Soldiers do not care about sexual orientation. They care about mission, a hot meal, and surviving until they get home.”
Choi and three other witnesses from the New York National Guard testified, said Maj. Roy Diehl, Choi’s attorney. Choi said that none of the witnesses said he was a poor officer or that they would object to serving with him.
The hearing board also watched a video clip of Choi outing himself on March 19 on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.
UPDATE: Dan Choi reacts after learning of his news, and calls Obama’s words a “big slap in the face to me.” He adds: “Every single one of our leaders needs to step up, stop hiding and punting it to each other. Come out of the closet and be leaders. Our national security depends on it.”