Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger
Since the implementation of the U. S. Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 1993, more than 14,000 gay and lesbian soldiers have been discharged from service. According to the GAO, of those discharged, more than 750 were mission-critical service members and more than 320 had skills in Arabic, Farsi, and Korean languages. Yet, while gays and lesbians with special knowledge and skills were being discharged from the military, the army increased its number of waivers for recruits. According to a 2007 article in the New York Times, military waivers increased 65% from 2003 to 2006. During those years, the Army accepted more applicants who were high school dropouts and applicants who obtained low scores on aptitude tests. The Army also increased its number of “moral waivers” for individuals with criminal pasts. The “sharpest increase” in waivers was for applicants who were guilty of serious misdemeanors—including burglary, robbery, vehicular homicide, and aggravated assault.
In 2008, CNN reported that Pentagon statistics “showed the Army allowed 106 convicted burglars to enlist in 2007, up from 36 the year before. It also granted waivers to 43 recruits convicted of aggravated assault that year, up from 33 a year before; and to 130 people convicted of possession of drugs other than marijuana, a rise from 71 in 2006.”
The easing of recruiting regulations also opened up the doors to applicants who were neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and gang members. A 2005 report written by the Defense Department states: “Effectively, the military has a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy pertaining to extremism. If individuals can perform satisfactorily, without making their extremist opinions overt … they are likely to be able to complete their contracts.”
In an article in The Colorado Independent last March, Sen. Mark Udall was quoted as saying the following to reporters about the repeal of DADT: “I feel very strongly about this. More than 14,000 service members have been discharged in the last decade. These are jet pilots, translators of Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun– languages so important in the War on Terror. All the skill sets needed in the military are met by gay Americans.”
It doesn’t make sense to me that the military discharged members with mission-critical and crucial language skills because they were homosexual while it was accepting applicants who were high school dropouts, felons, and members of extremist groups. Go figure.
That’s not the only troubling thing about the DADT policy. Over the years, the U. S. Military has spent more than $200 million “recruiting, training, investigating and replacing gay service members.” The GAO has reported that the ban on gays cost the military $53,000 for each service member who was dismissed from fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2009. In my opinion, that’s a lot of taxpayer money wasted.
It seems, however, that the U.S. Military may be attempting to recoup some of that $200 million by getting gay and lesbian soldiers discharged under DADT to help “foot the bill.” Did you know that the Defense Department has actually been billing those soldiers for the “unearned” portion of their enlistment bonuses, for the cost of educational scholarships and book stipends, and for any unfinished service? The U.S. Military discharged openly gay and lesbian soldiers—people who refused to live a lie—from the military and then charged them because they were no longer working for the military. I guess one could call it a “discharge charge.” Talk about tortured logic!
Most of you have probably heard of Lt. Dan Choi, the West Point graduate, Arab linguist, and Iraq war veteran who was discharged under DADT. In late December, the Defense Department sent Lt. Choi a bill in the amount of $2, 519.18 for the “unearned” portion of his “enlistment or reenlistment bonus.” Well, Choi has refused to pay the bill. In fact, Choi sent a letter to President Obama.
Here is Choi’s letter:
Dear Mr. President:
Today I received a $2,500 bill from your Defense Department Finance and Debt Services. Specifically, you claim payment for “the unearned portion” of my Army contract. Six months after my discharge under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy I have tried to move forward with my life, and I was inspired by your clarion calls for our progress as one nation towards a more just society. I have served my country in combat and I have tried to live my life by the values I learned at West Point in continued service to our nation. To move forward in my own life I have finally sought treatment for Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Insomnia, and Depressive Disorder from the Veterans Affairs Department. But I still find myself on a domestic battlefield for basic dignity as an American citizen. I know I am not alone in this fight because of the desperate cries for help I get from discharged, unemployed, discriminated, and suicidal veterans. I have felt all of their same pains personally. Today I also witness the disgrace of a country that perpetually discovers methods to punish its own citizens for taking a moral stand.
By flagrantly and repeatedly violating an immoral law, I have flagrantly and repeatedly saluted the honor of America’s promise. At West Point, when we recited the Cadet Prayer we reminded ourselves “always to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.” It would be easy to pay the $2500 bill and be swiftly done with this diseased chapter of my life, where I sinfully deceived and tolerated self-hatred under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Many thousands have wrestled with their responsibilities and expedient solutions when confronted with issues of this magnitude. I understand you also wrestle with issues of our equality. But I choose to cease wrestling, to cease the excuses, to cease the philosophical grandstanding and ethical gymnastics of political expediency in the face of moral duty. My obligations to take a stand, knowing all the continued consequences of my violations, are clear.
I refuse to pay your claim.
Former Army First Lieutenant
West Point Class of 2003
DFAS Account Statement 12/20/2010 (2 pages)
You may also be interested in reading about, Mara Boyd and Anthony Woods, two other members of the military who were discharged under DADT.
Mara Boyd, an Air Force ROTC Cadet,was asked to repay $30,000 to the government for the cost of her college scholarships and book stipends after she came out of the closet.
In wake of repeal, a look back at how ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ failed one servicemember (The American Independent)
Ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ too little too late for gay cadet (The Colorado Independent)
Anthony Woods, a graduate of West Point, was asked to pay back the Army $38,000 in tuition money.
Coming Out From Life Under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (NPR)
It looks like our government needs to do more than repeal DADT. It should stop sending bills to gay and lesbian soldiers who weren’t allowed to finish their terms of military service to their country.
For Further Reading:
Democrats ask DOD to allow ousted gays to appeal for honorable discharge (Stars & Stripes)
Udall: DADT waste of time, energy, money (The Colorado Independent, 3/3/2010)
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (DADT Discharges 1994-2006)