HRC Blog

Letter from Retired Sailor Whose Partner Was Discharged by DADT

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Today's letter comes from Lee Quillian, a retired Chief Petty Officer whose partner was discharged by DADT:

August 25, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army
Europe Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC: U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee U.S. Sen. John S. McCain Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

I am a retired military sailor, living with a wonderful person who was fired because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Because of my experience with the military, I understand the life, the duty days, the underway time, the training cycles. 

Even the simple events of life at sea – how wondrous or disastrous mail call can be, depending on whether or not you get a letter; the whirlwind caused by the simple announcement of liberty call; and the sounds of the Navy - the bells, the whistles, the constant hum and different noises of shipboard living.  These are just some of the various events and sometimes intense evolutions that occur around the universe called the United States Ship. 

I’ve been stationed on five of the best ships in the Navy.  I speak the language, I know all the acronyms, and it’s an organization I’ve spent most of my closeted life in. If my highly decorated and accomplished spouse had been able to stay in the Navy, her professional life would have included all of those same events mentioned previously, and more. 

She would have undoubtedly been stationed on board a ship of awesome capabilities.  That ship would deploy, do training missions, visit foreign and domestic ports, and represent the world’s finest Navy.  She would stand watch, hopefully in something better than a port and starboard rotation.  If you don’t know what a port and starboard rotation is, just imagine working at your current job, six hours on, then take six hours off, then go back to work for six hours. 

Repeat 24/7 for the next 180 days. She might even be sent on an Individual Augmentation (IA) to Iraq or Afghanistan while in her current assignment.  During an Individual Augmentation, she would literally be loaned out to cover a critical needs job, however long that may be, in addition to her regularly scheduled deployment cycle. I, however, would have to adhere to a strict set of rules when dealing with a deployment, whether it be an IA or ship deployment.  Here are just some to think about – they reflect what life is like for military families under DADT:

  • Set up an alternative e-mail account that wouldn’t show the gender of my name;
  • Establish a very generic, genderless form of communications over e-mail;
  • Never write “I love you” – or nothing that could indicate anything at all about the nature of our relationship;
  • No access to the Ship’s Ombudsman – a point person for military families for all things very, very important relating to the ship and her crew;
  • Create a plan for dropping her off at ship – making sure our goodbye or welcome is in secret;
  • Never spending the remaining few hours on the ship like with the rest of families before a deployment;
  • Worrying about how close to the pier I could be without raising suspicion;
  • Before leaving home, be sure to say final goodbyes – no hugs and certainly no kisses allowed on or near the base;
  • Not being able to participate in any family video postcards to the ship;
  • Still trying to figure out how to deal with those pesky customs forms required when mailing anything to a “Fleet Post Office” – they require a name, so maybe use her parent’s name or the dog’s name;
  • Don’t put anything too personal in care packages – those might arrive via barge, waterlogged and falling apart – therefore, they might be opened;
  • As a result of the rough handling from a helicopter mail drop, any other boxes I send could be opened if damaged;
  • Don’t get sick, seriously sick, and don’t get hurt while spouse is gone;
  • Hope she doesn’t get hurt as no one would tell me – I can’t be listed as her next of kin in her service record without raising eyebrows;
  • Remember to have her pack her personal cell phone and the charger for use six to nine months later – can’t use any of the ship’s communications, so the cell is the only way to coordinate a pickup upon return home;
  • Knowing that when the other families are waiting at the pier, I wouldn’t be able to stand among them anxiously awaiting my sailor’s return.

This isn’t everything.  It’s just a glimpse.

Sincerely,

Chief Petty Officer
Lee Quillian, USN (Ret.)

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners and families of service members serving in silence under this failed law. To join in HRC and SLDN's joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.

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