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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 16, 2009 at 2:36 PM

Military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy

A bad idea from the start

As a Vietnam-era veteran, I served with combat veterans, cared for Navy and Marine Corps casualties, and saw firsthand the ravages of war. I was young and patriotic, and proudly served a country I respected. All that changed forever when, shortly before I was discharged, a corpsman who had returned from the front lines only months before was given a bad-conduct discharge after being photographed leaving a gay bar.

He kept his personal life private, so those of us who knew him did not know he was gay.

He had returned from combat with a Bronze Star he received for pulling 26 wounded men off a hill under fire. He was quiet and humble and one of the best corpsmen I knew. Even to survive that kind of bravery was a monumental feat, and he considered it “just part of the job.”

The bad-conduct discharge robbed him of his veterans benefits and left him feeling shame for exercising his God-given right to be himself. He was in civilian clothes, off base and off duty when he was caught.

When the policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was adopted, I knew that unsuspecting gays and lesbians would join the military believing that if they were discreet, they could serve their country and expect to be treated fairly.

This policy was a bad idea from the start. It allows for persecution and discrimination in a setting that lends itself to cruelty. This has to stop.

In addition to the obvious humanitarian reasons, the cost of training and then dismissing qualified, honorable and able men and women is an unconscionable misuse of millions — perhaps billions — of dollars of the military budget. Perhaps this money could be better spent on safety equipment to protect those who are willing to risk their lives to serve their country.

— Kathryn Katz, Seattle

Comments | More in Gay rights, military

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