Monday, July 2, 2012

Don't Ask and Don't Tell Me There's Gay Guys in the MIlitary

I have been really lucky: The VA Hospital keeps asking me to go and work there on Mondays.  Money has been tight: my wife got her credential as a math teacher, and she can't find a full-time, permanent job. 
As a math teacher.
I thought that no matter how things get, there's always money--and a need-for math teachers.
I guess not.
Besides the extra money, there's another benefit: I love scanning these old guys.
They're great.
One old guy today was an MP under McArthur.  Said the following: "It was so cold at Chosun (Reservoir) that some of our guys froze to death.  They didn't get shot, they just died from the cold."
And I thought that blizzard in February of 1987 that froze Budapest was bad.  Ambulances couldn't respond to 911 calls. It was -27 Celsius when we walked my girlfriend home, across the Danube.
Another old guy today--a Vietnam vet who spent the summer of 68 dodging all of the AK47 rounds that Charlie threw at him--struck me as being different.
You know, different.
I didn't ask, but he told.
He said, "Oh my friend in the waiting room.  We've been living together for thirty years."
And I'm thinking, Oh, that guy with a gray beard and round glasses? I thought he was your son.
So, here's the problem:
     I get about one gay patient a week, and all of these guys were in the US Army or the Marine Corps during a period when it was illegal.  It was a crime! We shall have no tutti-fruttis in our United States Army, or mamsy pansies in our Beloved Corps.
Except for the fact that they served their full term of service, took a bullet, got medals and received honorable discharges.
In Conduct Unbecoming Randy Shilts explains what happened: we had the draft, and we needed bodies.  Straight guys who didn't want to get their ass shot off in Vietnam would lie, and claim to be homosexual, and the recruiters would say, "Shut up, you're in the army, now."
That's fine, but they also did that with real-life homosexuals who had the gaydar cross-section of a B-52.  They would sashay into the recruiting office i.e. draft board, do their best Marilyn Monroe imitation, and 48 hours later find some scary DI screaming at them to "Get off my bus, and stand in platoon formation!"
So when there's a war going, and we have the draft, there's no such thing as a tutti-frutti.  They just don't exist.  Ask anybody serving on the draft board.  But when the volunteer Army existed, now we could become selective.
The most disturbing chapter in Conduct Unbecoming is the story of a gay guy who got drafted during the Vietnam War.  He showed up, told them he was gay, they said, "No, you're not."  He saw combat in Vietnam, then served for many more years.  He realized that he actually liked the Army, and repeatedly re-enlisted, while keeping his personal life--well, um--personal.
Then one day he pissed off the wrong colonel, and suddenly, the U.S. Army realized that there was a homosexual in their midst. Shocking! Scandalous.
The dude had 17 years of service i.e. was 3 years shy of getting his 20, and they kicked him out for the very thing he had admitted when they drafted him.
As the Iraq War dragged on, along with Afghanistan, expediency (the need for men willing to put themselves in harm's way) Don't Ask Don't Tell died an ugly, gurgling, raspy death.
So, now that Obama got rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell, what's the bottom line?
There is no bottom line.
There have always been gays in the U.S. military, and during those crises when we needed every able-bodied man we just closed our eyes and pretended they didn't exist.  All we're doing is being honest about it.


Bill said...

When I was in the Navy I knew several guys who were gay and never had a problem with just saying, "No I'm not interested" to their propositions. All remained friends and those that were discreet made it through their service without difficulty.

A far greater threat to morale, efficiency, and combat operations is the presence of women living and working in ships and small units in close proximity to men. The 95% of guys who are straight and 18-25 are constantly scamming, lying, and proselytizing to get laid. Pregnancy rates and sexual assaults in these situations are pretty much ignored in the political context of pushing equal opportunities for women.

Thomas Geza Miko said...

Thank you for pointing that out. I understand this problem is not confined to ships: there were a number of rape cases in Iraq, in the Army. Same as a ship, when you think about it: stuck in close quarters, and it's not safe outside the wire, then it turns out not to ne safe inside the wire, either.