Voices of Honor—Joining Perspectives
September 9, 2009
“Is there really that significant a need for pediatricians in the military?” I wondered. I was having a late, Labor Day dinner with a new acquaintance, who shared with me his interest in military service. “Tim” was particularly interested in joining the Navy. “’Peds’ (pediatricians) are actually among the most in-demand medical specialists for military service,” Tim offered. “Think about it: an increase in troop force also means an increase in need for family care, and yet peds tend not to be attracted to military service.” “So why not serve?” I asked. “I imagine the benefits for filling such a needed position are pretty rewarding.” I knew the answer, but sometimes the question needs to be brought out into the open. “I know for a fact I wouldn’t be able to serve while having to keep my personal life secret.” He paused, then continued, forcefully: “Just keep doing the work you’re doing. When you’re successful, I’ll definitely consider serving.”
The military is not for everyone. When a potential recruiting pool is conceptualized by those considering future manpower needs of the military, often neglected are various disqualifying factors – flat feet, bad knees, severe asthma, etc. – that severely diminishes who can and cannot serve. And, as the United States still utilizes an all-volunteer force, the ultimate decider on recruitment – desire to serve – also decreases the recruiting pool considerably. So it is frustrating to know someone with skills sorely needed by the military and who wants to serve is repelled by a discriminatory law that would place unrealistic constraints on his well-being.
A few years ago, a campaign to bring attention to these potential recruits was launched by Soulforce, focusing largely on U.S. armed service recruiting stations. Soulforce used potential recruits who were eventually arrested for refusing to leave until they were able to sign up for service. Not everyone in the movement for repeal agrees with this strategy – and in fact, many don’t – but it does highlight the desire to serve by a population who, for no valid reason, is considered non-recruitable. Here we have an interesting contrast: a group of potential recruits doing their best to protest the policy from the outside, and, with the Voices of Honor Tour, a group of veterans bringing experiences of actually serving into the fight for repeal. Both of these initiatives provide a unique perspective on the overall cost of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In Orlando and Palm Springs on September 16 and 29, respectively, the Voices of Honor Tour will be providing an opportunity for audiences to witness firsthand accounts of both strategies through screenings of the film Ask Not (www.asknotfilm.org). I’ve mentioned before that this film – personal participation aside – is one of the more comprehensive takes on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” available to the general public, and if you are able to come to either of these events, I highly recommend it. The Orlando event will also provide an opportunity for people to hear from HRC President Joe Solmonese. Film principles will be available at both screenings to answer questions about the film and the policy in general. We also have a Spanish-language event in Miami coming up on Monday, September 14, as well as town hall-style events in Tampa and San Diego on September 17 and 30. Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese will lead the discussion at the Tampa event. Although San Diego is the last scheduled stop on the Voices of Honor Tour, I doubt it will be the last you see of the veterans involved in this latest effort, as I’m sure the amount of work needed to repeal the policy will demand prolific and consistent efforts well beyond the Tour. From all perspectives.
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.
Issues: Federal Advocacy
May 24, 2013