Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…DON’T Pay!: On Dan Choi, Gays, and the Military

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.

Dan Choi
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)

Neo-Nazis are in the Army now: Why the U.S. military is ignoring its own regulations and permitting white supremacists to join its ranks. (Salon, 6/15/2009)

Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military, Group Asserts (New York Times, 7/7/2006)

Udall: DADT waste of time, energy, money (The Colorado Independent, 3/3/2010)


Huffington Post

The Colorado Independent

Raw Story

The American Independent

The Washington Independent

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (DADT Discharges 1994-2006)

The New York Times: (


Stars and Stripes

37 thoughts on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…DON’T Pay!: On Dan Choi, Gays, and the Military”

  1. Great job Elaine. I did read about these payment “issues” and I could not believe it. This kind of inequity should be something that a true progressive President should be able to fix with a phone call to Def. Sec. Gates. Pres. Obama, I hope you are reading JT’s blog. You might learn something.

  2. Elaine,

    Thank you…this is just unbelievable….and they ask what can be done about balancing the budget…apparently on the backs of the affected service members…..

  3. Tony:
    “The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared:
    “”Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed
    them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there
    would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he
    did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to
    suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.”
    That’s a third world country word”exile”.:=(

  4. Eniobob, that tension between the black and gay civil rights struggles–over their many similarities and their many differences, and over the conservatism of black churches–does show up quite a lot if you keep your eyes peeled. The liberal and conservative factions of the surviving King family have their vocal differences over the matter, and Mildny must have read the famous 2004 statement in support of marriage equality by Mildred Jeter Loving, who with her husband successfully sued the state of Virginia for the cruel and medieval anti-miscegenation law by which they were both convicted of a felony for marrying one another.

    It remains a touchy subject that divides many who had worked side by side in the battle for civil rights. But there is a widespread feeling among younger people, in particular, that this is their generation’s battle for civil rights.

    Three time is a charm”That many feel threated by Gay People, is the result of their own ignorance.”


  6. What? I just made a posting here with 2 links (not the 3 that gets a posting spiked) and it seemed to post, actually showed up in the queue, then vanished. !?!

    In any event, great posting Elaine and very thought provoking.

  7. Agree with Blouise, Buddha, Bud, and Mike. However, “Farci,” the language, is spelt with an “s,” as in Farsi.

  8. Mike S., without pulling too hard at this tapestry’s threads, DADT or no, the Joint Chiefs remain permeated by this crusader mentality. There has been no great cleaning of house in the over-funded military, quite the opposite, as we feed Vaal his due. The ratio of contractors to actual soldiers still remains at nearly 1:1. There is no coherent plan, and there hasn’t been one for a decade.

    I think the Military Calculation, reptilian in its simplicity, was simple numbers: how many phaghallers wanting rights vs how many (invented) islamooslimhadists? Which are the greater threat? DOMA is alive and well, and a large majority of states have gone completely around the bend with amendments.

    One suspects powder is being kept intentionally dry on this issue. There are places in the Old Sooth where they still, well, shoot people to death in church in broad daylight for Transgressions. The courageous Dr. Tiller is simply sauce for the goose, bless his soul.

    Until we civilians reassert control of our military, we are in for war without end, where we are free to torture, lie, and break treaties, all without consequence. I invite women, especially, to rise up, having the slim majority, among other strengths, to push back against what are as-yet unspecified penalties for the mother who defies the notion her fertilized egg of one cell is a person, and therefore, a ward of the State. One suggests it will be rather more than a ding on her credit report.

    All these threads seem to lead back to the same wicked criminal enterprise called our State Religion.

  9. Mike S.

    Like you, I often suspect a possible conspiracy where none may exist. I assume it’s a reaction partly to personal family disappointments, partly to personal titillation, and partly to old age and receiving so many shocks with regard to our government’s actions.

    I can remember vividly boarding a plane and after settling down, being offered a newspaper whose headlines read “U.S. Invades Grenada”, which was my first exposure to that fact. I don’t remember my exact verbal reaction, but it must have been a doozy considering my seat mates’ reactions. :-/

  10. The key is flexibility.Because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is an act of Congress the military couldn’t set it aside. This was an unfortunate side effect of the collapse of Clinton’s early promise to let homosexuals serve equally in the military. A whole revolution in public attitudes, and a new generation in Congress, has come since those dark days of 1993, but the law still remains until the military chain of command puts the repeal into operation.

  11. “I doubt a coup is consciously forming, but that can’t be absolutely positively ruled out. “7 days in May”.’

    Although it plays in to my incipient paranoia and thus I must hold my fantasies in check, I’ve been thinking the same thoughts you’ve expressed above.

  12. Bud and Woosty

    Correct. It would be one thing if they were accepting these extremiststs only because they need warm bodies, but I also have the sneaking suspicion that the Christian Warrior mentality we’ve seen slowly overtaking the upper echelons of our military is a contributing factor in their acceptance.

    I doubt a coup is consciously forming, but that can’t be absolutely positively ruled out. “7 days in May”.

    I’m reminded of the Soviet Unions practice of caring for orphans of WWII and training and forming whole platoons of them when they reached the proper age.

    These were the troops sent to do the dirtiest most vicious efforts to tamp down any rebellion in the states under Soviet domination during the Cold War.

    These troops had no family or emotional connections to any other than their military comrades. Rather like the Spartans trained their soldiers. They were certainly efficient in what they were expected to do.

  13. “Quite clearly the government views people who are “guilty of serious misdemeanors—including burglary, robbery, vehicular homicide, and aggravated assault,” morally superior to gays and lesbians.”


    The Government is forseeing a time when they devise that those capable of committing ‘ burglary, robbery, vehicular homicide, and aggravated assault’ are going to be more beneficial to their machine than those with morals that allow the ability to be gay vs the ability to commit crimes and do harm against other human beings…I don’t believe that morals have much to do with it….

  14. We shouldn’t be surprised by this Post and its implications. Given that we are involved in two unnecessary and murderous wars, who best to recruit to fight them than people with little moral conscience? This is not a slur on the large percentage of dedicated and brave people in the armed forces. It is the hiring/firing process, skewed towards social misfits that is the real slur to those in uniform. That many feel threated by Gay People, is the result of their own ignorance.

  15. Quite clearly the government views people who are “guilty of serious misdemeanors—including burglary, robbery, vehicular homicide, and aggravated assault,” morally superior to gays and lesbians.

    I do believe that is what happens when the government christianizes the military.

    Elaine, thank you for the post and all of the hard work that you have put into it with the links and all.

  16. Dan Choi!

    Listen up!

    You are an outstanding example of the principles upon which this country was founded.

    That is all.

  17. My heart aches for those young men and women treated so callously by their/our government. I have written letter after letter to my representatives in Congress and the Senate and contributed to certain defense funds.

    We must continue to support this cause and expose our government’s abuse of these individuals demanding full and open change on all fronts of this issue.

    Quite frankly I am both amazed and thankful that we have come this far … I refuse to back off until the goal of complete equality is reached.

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