End of DADT is beginning of real integration of America’s armed forces
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has once again shown himself to be a thoughtful public servant and a national security advocate who looks at the big picture; in a recent speech he underscored the growing gap between Americans who serve in the armed forces and those who have no contact with military service, saying that for many of us, “service in the military, no matter how laudable, has become something for other people to do.”
But take a look at a group of dedicated servicemen and women who are no longer part of the military — but whose commitment to serving their country is so strong that they would rejoin if given the opportunity. I’m talking about gays and lesbians profiled by Eve Conant in Newsweek who are among the 11,000 servicemembers forced out of their jobs in the military because of their sexual orientation. These brave people — like others who are discriminated against — want to be seen as Americans, not as gay and lesbian Americans. And many of them want their old jobs back.
The amazing thing is that if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is finally thrown out, the U.S. armed forces will — in an instant — finally become fully inclusive of all Americans. This change may seem tangential to Secretary Gates’s concerns about the distance between most Americans and their military, but I think it could induce a marked change in the way Americans look at the armed forces, even if they never choose to serve.
If the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are openly tolerant and ready to accept all Americans — all Americans, regardless of gender, race, creed, or sexual orientation — who are ready to fight for our country, we’ll move a step closer together as a nation.
Beyond the individual soldiers or marines or sailors or airmen who lost their jobs, DADT has created another victim: the armed services themselves, still not a place where all Americans can serve.