Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ask! Tell!

Time to cut through the bureaucratic red tape of discrimination!

The following is a letter from Lt Daniel Choi
Open Letter to President Obama and Every Member of Congress:

I have learned many lessons in the ten years since I first raised my right hand at the United States Military Academy at West Point and committed to fighting for my country. The lessons of courage, integrity, honesty and selfless service are some of the most important.

At West Point, I recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. It taught us to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong” and to “never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.” The Cadet Honor Code demanded truthfulness and honesty. It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort.

Following the Honor Code never bowed to comfortable timing or popularity. Honor and integrity are 24-hour values. That is why I refuse to lie about my identity.

I have personally served for a decade under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: an immoral law and policy that forces American soldiers to deceive and lie about their sexual orientation. Worse, it forces others to tolerate deception and lying. These values are completely opposed to anything I learned at West Point. Deception and lies poison a unit and cripple a fighting force.

As an infantry officer, an Iraq combat veteran and a West Point graduate with a degree in Arabic, I refuse to lie to my commanders. I refuse to lie to my peers. I refuse to lie to my subordinates. I demand honesty and courage from my soldiers. They should demand the same from me.

I am committed to applying the leadership lessons I learned at West Point. With 60 other LGBT West Point graduates, I helped form our organization, Knights Out, to fight for the repeal of this discriminatory law and educate cadets and soldiers after the repeal occurs. When I receive emails from deployed soldiers and veterans who feel isolated, alone, and even suicidal because the torment of rejection and discrimination, I remember my leadership training: soldiers cannot feel alone, especially in combat. Leaders must reach out. They can never diminish the fighting spirit of a soldier by tolerating discrimination and isolation. Leaders respect the honor of service. Respecting each soldier’s service is my personal promise.

The Department of the Army sent a letter discharging me on April 23rd. I will not lie to you; the letter is a slap in the face. It is a slap in the face to me. It is a slap in the face to my soldiers, peers and leaders who have demonstrated that an infantry unit can be professional enough to accept diversity, to accept capable leaders, to accept skilled soldiers.

My subordinates know I’m gay. They don’t care. They are professional.

Further, they are respectable infantrymen who work as a team. Many told me that they respect me even more because I trusted them enough to let them know the truth. Trust is the foundation of unit cohesion.

After I publicly announced that I am gay, I reported for training and led rifle marksmanship. I ordered hundreds of soldiers to fire live rounds and qualify on their weapons. I qualified on my own weapon. I showered after training and slept in an open bay with 40 other infantrymen. I cannot understand the claim that I “negatively affected good order and discipline in the New York Army National Guard.” I refuse to accept this statement as true.

As an infantry officer, I am not accustomed to begging. But I beg you today: Do not fire me. Do not fire me because my soldiers are more than a unit or a fighting force – we are a family and we support each other. We should not learn that honesty and courage leads to punishment and insult. Their professionalism should not be rewarded with losing their leader. I understand if you must fire me, but please do not discredit and insult my soldiers for their professionalism.

When I was commissioned I was told that I serve at the pleasure of the President. I hope I have not displeased anyone by my honesty. I love my job. I want to deploy and continue to serve with the unit I respect and admire. I want to continue to serve our country because of everything it stands for.

Please do not wait to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Please do not fire me.

Very Respectfully,

Daniel W. Choi
New York Army National Guard

He said it best in his own words.
A person has to be pretty dedicated to endure West Point with a degree in Arabic.
Has it come to this? A dedicated soldier having to *beg* to deploy & serve his country?

At some point the military recently opened up recruiting to felons and dropouts because recruiting was difficult. They had to offer large sums of money as enticements to get recruits to sign the dotted line.

The military would rather have felons than a highly intelligent dedicated soldier with specialized, vastly needed language skills, just because of his sexual orientation?

Just out of curiosity-- are they screening the sexual behavior of the felon & drop out recruits? I seriously doubt it.

This is the worst of discrimination..... dismissing an exemplary soldier because of nothing that has to do with his military service record- taking it a step further & ignoring his exemplary service and dedication?

Show us some of that Change we can Believe in!


Spadoman said...

This letter is very moving. Like others, I have my opinions about gays in the military and that is really only a single opinion. So what? It doesn't make any difference. It didn't when I was a combat infantryman. Made no difference what sexual orientation, religion, race or political leanings.
Most people conjure up this view of men, in the idea of gay men, and lesbians, in the idea of gay women, having sex. There is no other thought process even considered like love or companionship. The outside closed minded people think only of sexual relationships. The part that is private of any relationship between two people. When they get rid of this narrow point of view, the atmosphere might change.
Daniel Choi tells of the reality of it, and that is, it shouldn't be an issue and isn't unless we let the uninformed narrow minded masses say so.
I like the ideas about truth. I have many faults. I pride myself on telling the truth, always. In fact, it is a byline in my blog title. I don't have much else. I'm not rich. I only have dignity left, the other senses are dulled or gone completely already. I never knew they taught truth at West Point.


Annette said...

I don't understand if all the commanders are in favor of overturning this, why are they kicking Dan Choi out? That's what I couldn't understand. He says no one minded, and I am sure they didn't. It is something that has gone on forever, and everyone just looked the other way.. so why can't they continue to do so, and leave him alone? If the commanders really do want to change the policy as they say they do, then just quit forcing the gays out. Just STOP. It is that simple. Who is going to enforce it if the commanders don't?

Fran said...

If there is a specific issue about performance or a problem, by all means, it needs to be addressed. Units of troops do need to be a cohesive group, they form a kind of family, that needs to function together as they head into war. He knows this. He understands this.

I admire his honesty. He formed the *Knights Out* gay support group.

Anita~ Yes they did follow the (lame) look away policy, but that is really not good enough.
People , as Lt. Choi states, need to be true and honest to themselves, and others.
I've always seen the gay rights issue as a civil rights issue. Whenever you try to assess a controversial topic, an interesting tactic is to put the situation in reverse.
What if the Don't Ask Don't Tell rule applied to heterosexuals?
Do not discuss your life.
Do not reveal your true self.
Don't talk about who you are.

The same applies to gay marriage.

How would I feel if my marriage was only recognized in certain states, and could be repealed at the whim of someone else launching a lawsuit?

It is time to put pressure on Obama to do the right thing here.

DADT was never good to begin with- it is high time we clean house. Who better than the candidate who is a civil rights champion.

Obama needs to step up & make this right.

Annette said...

He has addressed it.. and has asked for Congress to give him legislation and he will sign it.. now it is in Congresses laps.. he can't write the bill for them. But as I said in my comment.. Choi's superior officers could just not put him out, that is a choice they are making. That was brought up in the press briefing today too. Gibbs was asked about it and he again said that the President had said he was waiting for legislation from Congress, and he said he supported overturning it.

But, like I said, the commanders could just not push the issue. That is up to them. Even if he reports it, it is up to the officers discretion to pass it along up the chain of command and to force him out.

I just think if they, the commanders, really WANT to stop it they could start protesting it by NOT kicking these guys and gals out of the military.

Fran said...

Still it does seem like everyone passes the buck on this issue.
It would seem the president or someone along the line can mandate an anti discrimination clause, a signing statement or executive order- some damned ting to make it so this soldier is not discriminated against, right now-- and not have to wait for CONgress to get their act together.

It is a brave thing this soldier is doing,

nonnie9999 said...

what a pity that politicians can't seem to be as brave as soldiers are. soldiers might lose their lives. all politicians will lose are their cushy seats in congress. here's a guy begging to serve his country, and they don't have the balls to do the right thing. sickening.

Fran said...

you said it nonnie.... I really thought Obama would step up on this one.