HRC Blog

Marine Veteran Reflects on House DADT Vote

This guest post comes from Walker Burttschell, a Marine discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," who recently walked from Virginia Beach, VA to Washington, DC to call attention to the law: I’m exhausted but exhilarated... Thursday night, I was sitting in the House gallery anxiously hoping for at least 218 votes for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As soon as we hit the magic number, I turned and looked over at Eric Alva, and he gave me a smile and a “thumbs up”.  He has been such an inspiration to me and I was so proud to be at this historic place at this historic moment.  If you would have asked me two weeks ago, I would never have thought I’d be in Washington watching this vote. I joined the Marines nine years ago because of 9/11.   A year later I was kicked out because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  I hadn’t spoken about being kicked out for several years, until HRC sent me an email looking for Veterans to speak out.  Within a week I was speaking to college students about my experience being gay in the military.  It was difficult but cathartic. Recently I attended Veterans Lobby Day on the Hill. It was the most impactful day I experienced since being public about my sexual orientation. After weeks of working with HRC to identify other vets like me, and mobilizing them to work to repeal DADT, I decided to walk 260 miles from Virginia Beach to Capitol Hill, where I and other vets delivered over 15,000 postcards from constituents to Senators. I’m still trying to take in the fact that we are so close to seeing the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  When that day happens, I look forward to being able to go back into the Marine Corps, but this time serving with complete integrity and honor. Semper Fidelis.

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