On Tuesday, Marine Corps commandant Gen. James F. Amos, an increasingly vocal opponent of “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, suggested that ending the policy could lead to “distraction” and instability — and, perhaps, the loss of soldiers’ limbs and lives.
One gay Marine veteran who actually lost a limb in combat has taken issue with those remarks.
During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Staff Sgt. Eric Alva stepped on a landmine, becoming the first Marine seriously injured in the war (his right leg was amputated). Though Alva is gay, he was not discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” but received a medical discharge as a result.
“He pretty much spit on me, my Purple Heart, and my 13 years of service,” Alva said of Amos Wednesday as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a stand-alone repeal bill — one sponsored by Pennsylvania representative Patrick Murphy, a fellow Iraq war veteran who lost his reelection bid in November. “I would definitely ask Amos for a meeting to explain his comments, and I’d bring my Purple Heart with me.”
Responding to questions from reporters at the Pentagon, Amos, who was appointed to the position by Defense secretary Robert M. Gates in June but is at odds with the White House on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Tuesday: “Mistakes and inattention or distractions costs Marines lives. ... I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction." (Read Stars and Stripes coverage of the remarks here.)
Alva, 39, called Amos's behavior insubordinate and reminiscent of the conduct of another four-star general: Stanley A. McChrystal, who resigned under pressure in June after Rolling Stone published remarks attributed to McChrystal and his aides critical of senior administration officials.
“I wish Obama would invite [Amos] to the White House and fire his ass on the spot,” Alva told The Advocate.
Repeal advocates including Servicemembers Legal Defense Network have called for Amos’s resignation. “The General’s goal is to kill repeal no matter the consequences, perhaps at the dereliction of his other duties,” SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis said of Amos in a statement.
But as of Tuesday, the administration had not taken a hard-line stance against Amos. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs sidestepped a question from Advocate Washington correspondent Kerry Eleveld on whether such statements by the chief of the Marine Corps were becoming increasingly problematic for President Obama.
“I think their views are very well known, just as the commander in chief’s views are very well known,” Gibbs said of the service chiefs.