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A Soldier's Victory

A Soldier's Victory


COMMENTARY: In July I testified in the Log Cabin Republicans' suit against the law we know as "don't ask, don't tell." White and Case, the law firm representing Log Cabin, reached out to me a few months earlier after they had heard about my testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. They asked if I was willing be a witness in the trial and tell my story to the federal judge. I said yes without hesitation, as I was excited to play a small part in helping to overturn this horrible law.

While on the witness stand I spoke of my 13-year career as an Air Force officer. I grew up in a military household: My father retired as a senior officer in the Air Force and served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. One of my uncles retired from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Another uncle retired from the Army, with service in Korea. Because of this upbringing I always knew I would follow suit and go into the military in some capacity.

I finished Air Force ROTC as a distinguished graduate and came on active duty in the military in the summer of 1993, just as DADT was being debated on the national stage. As a young second lieutenant, not yet fully aware of my own identify, I never envisioned I would become a casualty in the military's war on gays. I just knew I wanted to serve my country as all the men in my family before me had done.

During the course of my career I deployed to the Middle East four times in support of our efforts in Iraq. On my last tour of duty I led a team of nearly 200 men and women, responsible for maintaining the command and control systems used to control the airspace over Iraq. Shortly before I left Iraq I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force. Also while in Iraq I wrote personal e-mails to family and friends to stay connected to my loved ones and ease the stress of a combat zone. Some of these e-mails were to a man I had dated.

Shortly after my unit left Iraq someone in the unit that replaced mine inadvertently discovered my private e-mails and proceeded to read them. The Air Force ordered a search of my e-mail correspondence while in Iraq, during the height of the insurgency, solely to determine if I had violated DADT and to find whatever evidence it could use against me.

My commander called me into his office and demanded I give him an explanation for the e-mails. The Air Force, in essence, "asked," and I refused "to tell." I was relieved of my duties leading nearly 200 men and women, my security clearance was suspended, part of my pay was terminated, and I had to endure a grueling 16-month legal ordeal. Despite never once making a statement to the military that violated DADT, I was thrown out. On my final day in the Air Force I was given a police escort off the base, as if I were a common criminal or a threat to national security. Even as the Air Force was pursuing a discharge against me, my superior officers recommended I be promoted to lieutenant colonel.

When I testified in the trial last July, there was little notice in the mainstream media about the event. Today, after Judge Phillips issued her historic ruling declaring DADT unconstitutional, the story is everywhere, including the front page of The New York Times.

I am delighted this process is moving forward in the judicial branch, albeit slowly. In May the House of Representatives voted to repeal DADT. Now it is time for the Senate to follow suit when members return to Washington next week. Congress made DADT the law of the land in 1993; the onus is on it now to repeal this unconstitutional law.

I was honored and humbled to tell my story before a federal judge as well as to testify before the Senate earlier this year. But I have had no greater honor than serving my country as an officer and a leader, alongside the patriotic men and women who put themselves in harm's way to defend our nation. I greatly anticipate a day coming soon when I can resume my career in the Air Force, defending the freedoms of the greatest nation on earth. Eighty percent of the American public thinks it is time to make DADT history. The Senate and President Obama must make that happen this year.
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