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In fiscal year 2009 at least 443 service members were discharged from the military under "don't ask, don't tell," according to Servicemembers United, an organization fighting the policy.
The group's executive director, Alexander Nicholson, said in a statement Thursday that the number was a reflection of current attitudes by commanders.
"As expected, this record low in total annual 'don't ask, don't tell' discharge numbers reflects a continuing downward trend, as military commanders continue to ignore this law that is clearly outdated and which impairs their unit readiness," he said. "But this new number still means that 443 lives were unnecessarily turned upside down in 2009, 443 careers were unfairly terminated, and military units unexpectedly lost a valuable asset 443 times last year as two wars raged."
Nicholson, a former Army interrogator, was also discharged under "don't ask, don't tell."
The number is based on the Department of Defense's disclosure that 428 service members were discharged and that the Department of Homeland Security reported 15 discharges from the Coast Guard. Still, the actual number of discharges is likely higher, since statistics from the Defense Manpower Data Center -- which gathers this information -- do not include discharges from the Reserves or the National Guard.
"It is indeed surprising to learn now that the annual discharge numbers have been under-reported," he added. "Policy makers, the media, and the American public rely on these numbers to make decisions and judgments about the costs of this policy. The Reserves and the National Guard have been especially active since September 11, 2001, and their numbers have swelled, so it is highly probably that the discharge numbers from these two additional Activities are significant."
According to Servicemembers United, this brings the grand total of "don't ask, don't tell" discharges to 13,425 since the law was enacted under President Bill Clinton.