Sunday, May 19, 2013
Service Member: Proud to be Gay and a Soldier
With the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, many military personnel are finally breaking their silence about their sexuality. For service member Steve Smith, he says he is proud to be both gay and a soldier.
With the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, many military personnel are finally breaking their silence about their sexuality.
For service member Steve Smith, he says he is proud to be both gay and a soldier.
“I signed that piece of paper just like every other service member,” said Smith, an Army soldier stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
“Just having the respect for your country, and having the guts to actually be one to volunteer. It’s a decision I would never take back.”
But it’s a decision his loved ones questioned. “My mom was a little scared that it was going to be hard for me,” he said.
As for the Army culture, “there is at times bashing and hatred towards it (being gay).”
“You have to keep a lot of things to yourself. You can't have the friends you want to have and you can't go out and do the things you want to do on your off-duty time,” he explained.
And Smith isn’t alone. Thousands of service members across the country and in Alaska have lived in fear for years, scared that knowledge of their sexuality would get them kicked out of the military.
"There were a lot of people who suspected that I was gay,” said Tom, an Army reservist who spoke to KTVA back in December 2010, under the condition that his identity would remain anonymous.
Mike, a member of the U.S. Air Force who also requested anonymity, said he has to distance himself from everybody else. “I have to lie to my superiors, and I know that integrity is one of the Air Force core values."
But all of that changed Tuesday when President Barack Obama and military leaders agreed that the repeal of DADT was necessary. “It was the right thing to do, it's done and we need to move on,” said U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen.
And moving on is what Smith plans to do. “There is going be a lot of military functions now where you can bring your same-sex partner to that you weren't able to do before.”
Smith said his patriotic commitment shouldn't be questioned simply because of whom he loves. “If you are here to protect your country and defend everyone's freedom you should be allowed to be who you are.”
Now, no one in uniform will have to hide. Smith said people speak more openly at work since the repeal of DADT.
His hope now is that more service members who are gay and lesbian will get involved in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.
For the most part, other members of the military who are gay or lesbian say they are relieved they can do their jobs without breaking the law.
Although gay and lesbian service members can now serve openly, same-sex military couples and their partners aren’t eligible for benefits.