Serving the Flag
June 14, 2009
Ed. Note: This post is from Jarrod Chlapowski, a U.S. Army veteran who recently joined the Human Rights Campaign to consult on ending the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Having been trained as a Korean linguist and cryptologic voice interceptor, he served in Korea, supporting the 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion on more than 300 sensitive reconnaissance operation missions. Chlapowski chose not to re-enlist in the Army because of the excessive burden of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
As our nation’s capitol celebrates D.C. Pride this weekend, it is also important to remember that Sunday, June 14 is Flag Day, the anniversary of the day in 1777 when Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as our national flag. On this day, we celebrate our flag and honor the patriotic Americans who have served under it. But many loyal gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans are prevented from serving under our flag because of the U.S. Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law. Brave men and woman are still discharged every day because of DADT, and many who want to serve our country do not even join the military because this discriminatory law. I served openly gay in the U.S. Army for five years. I was not discharged under DADT. Instead, I decided not to re-enlist because of the oppressive and intolerable burdens the law imposed on me. I represent the estimated 4000 service members who decline annually to reenlist because of the DADT law I am the silent cost of DADT, which cannot be quantified. I was respected by my peers and subordinates as representing Army ideals, and my skills as a linguist were essential to the military’s mission in South Korea. Though my fellow service members knew I was gay, this fact played no part in their evaluation of my value to the unit. Yet the logic behind the DADT law would still have me labeled as a threat to unit cohesion, combat readiness, and troop morale. This law embodying waste and sacrificing national security for reasons that simply do not hold up to logical analysis must end now. Capt. Pietrangelo was one of twelve service members discharged under DADT to challenge the law in Massachusetts federal court. The district court dismissed their case and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the dismissal. The Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear the appeal of Captain Pietrangelo, a former Army Captain discharged in 2004 under DADT, underscores the need for Congress and the Administration to take immediate action. The military’s continued dismissal of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members is unacceptable. Our country cannot afford another discharged service member. This Sunday and in the coming weeks, as we celebrate our flag, the birth of our nation, and our pride as LGBT Americans, we must call on Congress and the Administration must take immediate action to repeal this discriminatory and costly law.