“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Is No More; President Signs Repeal into Law, Today, December 22, 2010

President Obama signs law repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on December 22, 2010

“It’s a great day,” stated the President, and, indeed it is a great day. 

I got up at Annie’s regular going-out time, and even though I have the day off, I did not head back for the coziness of the bed.  I flicked on the TV, looking to find which network might have coverage of the signing ceremonies.  MSNBC, as would be expected, started showing the event at 8:00 AM (CST), but then by chance, I found even more direct coverage via whitehouse.gov.

I’m sure there will be any number of youtube videos up soon if not already of the event, but from a personal point of view, putting off a planned trip in order to watch was more than worth it.

It was definitely emotional to be able to watch the happenings on such a momentous occasion, something I had almost given up on just a couple of weeks ago.  But I was even more impressed by the President’s words before signing the repeal into law (Again look for the youtube video.  I’ll add it here later.)  Today I saw a happiness and a sincerity from the President that I haven’t seen for a long time, probably since the campaign.   The President was truly happy to be able to get this law passed as he had promised, but even more, was happy for the people who had long been affected by the discrimination of DADT.

What this indicates is that this President is going to be a stronger President now despite the results of this past election.  Maybe having a majority in both houses of congress was not the challenge he needed in order to show his strengh.

Today, December 22, 2010, should be remembered as a proud day for all Americans.

(I’m even going to remove the widget on the sidebar asking for people to call congress to lift the ban.)

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Incremental Equality, But More Than Just Being Legal; And–Rachel Maddow Interviews “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Victims

Some events are so staggering that they leave an indelible image in our minds of where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news. I remember Kennedy’s death, the Challenger disaster, and 9/11 that way. It seems that it’s the disastrous events that stay embedded in our brains more than those more glorious.

I don’t remember how or where I was when I heard that the Supreme Court had ruled in the Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003.  I do remember, though, the elation I felt after the highest court in the land’s ruling–for once feeling that I, as a person, wasn’t somehow “against the law” for just being who I was.  I do remember the thud-to-my-gut sensation watching the election returns in 2005 when Texas–like so many Bush-Rove politicked states–voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.  Legal? Yes.  Equal? No.

Therefore, it was with guarded optimism that I watched C-Span this past Saturday, knowing that it was perhaps one of those pivotal moments, with the U.S. Senate voting on the repeal of DADT.  When a cloture vote of 63-33 stopped McCain and his makeup-wearing, Republican cronies from any chance of filibustering, I became more hopeful. 

(Yes, makeup.  I’d be interested in knowing how many of these old southern geezers go to the beauty shop to get their makeup and hair done together so that they can dish with the stylists dolling them up for the cameras.  Are these the same people worrying about the military becoming feminized?)

Before I take too far of a turn here and screech my wheels, Rachel Maddow had a wonderful show with a full live audience yesterday reviewing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in which she had a panel of former and current gay military members:  Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Maj. Michael Almy, Cadet Katie Miller, and Capt. Jonathan Hopkins, who have played a big part in getting the effects of DADT made known, which ultimately helped to get this discriminatory policy overturned.

It’s compelling, so you might want to keep a Kleenex handy just in case.

U.S. Senate Votes To Eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Announcing the vote count of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the U.S. Senate.

Today, December 18th, 2010, at 2:30 PM (CST), the U.S. Senate approved the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the 17-year-old law which denied openly gay military members from serving.  The final vote in the senate was 65-31 on the bill which the U.S. House of Representatives had approved by a 250-175 margin earlier in the week.

The bill now is to be signed by the President.  However, both the President and the Pentagon must agree about how and when the measure will actually go into effect.

U.S. Senate To Vote on DADT Repeal; Call Your Senators Today–Easy Access to their Phone Numbers Here

The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in this Lame Duck session.  Senate Majority Leader Reid has called for the Senate to vote on the same legislation on Saturday, December 18th.

It’s time for you to do your part.  Call the senators from your state and tell them to vote for the repeal of DADT. 

Unlike some days, when I have had difficulty getting through to Senator Cornyn’s and Hutchison’s offices, this morning I was immediately able to speak to interns (I assume) who listened to my point of view and probably were tallying those for and against.  Maybe it’s easier to get through because it’s Friday or people are Christmas shopping.  Whatever it is, it seems like today is a good day to call and be heard.

Find the numbers for your senators here.  Just click open that cell phone and call.

“Getting a Top Secret Security Clearance”–Segueing into “Stories from the Frontline”–SLDN’s New Push To Get DADT Repealed

How much money the Air Force had spent on my training by the time I got my Top Secret Security Clearance had to have been a large sum.  After all, there had been 6 weeks of basic training, almost 9 months of full-time language instruction, and several months of technical training.  Even more training was yet to come after I received the clearance, before I went on to doing “real work.”

The military started the clearance process in San Antonio while I was still in basic training after they had decided what field I was going into.  I had to fill out a form that asked for every place I had ever lived, names of people who could verify that, and a lot of other details that I was hard-pressed to remember.  Family members and other acquaintances back home told me later that “some government guy” had been out to check on me, and they had had to give the names of other people who knew me.  I’d finished college when I went into the A.F. and had summer jobs, but I hadn’t even gotten a traffic ticket yet; my rural existence and fairly controlled upbringing hadn’t given me many opportunities to stray from the straight and narrow.

More than a year after the process started, I was called to personnel to finalize the process and be given my clearance.  As I remember it now, it felt a bit like an interrogation, but, in reality, it probably wasn’t much more than a clerk–I say “clerk”–but perhaps on second thought, it was an officer–asking a number of questions and checking them off on a form.   One of the questions was about “homosexuality”.   I don’t remember if it was the direct question, “Are you a homosexual?” or something a bit different.  The fact is, though certainly thoughts along those lines had been in my head, my life experiences up to that point weren’t broad enough to answer that question any other way than with a “no”.

I learned later that the military’s position then was when it came to military intelligence a “homosexual” was a liability, because if that person were captured by the enemy and the enemy found out he was a “homosexual”, they could use that as a way of getting whatever secret information out of him.  That’s pretty laughable in and of itself, because most gay military (or any other) men or women, especially back then, had already had a lot of experience at keeping secrets.  How were they going to find out anyway?  Drag some hot guy out in front of him and see how he reacted?  I mean if they were dragging out hot guys to get gay guys to spill the beans, couldn’t they do the same for straight guys by using hot women?   (These days they always want to drag out the scary shower story, but I’ll get into that another time.)

So that was before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”” and I can say, “They asked.”

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” really is a dinosaur and needs to be repealed.  I’m not a big activist, but I want to help and get others to be aware of what’s happening.  Service Members Legal Defense Network is pushing to get the President to honor his word and trying to get Congress busy and repeal DADT this year.  Read the following post from their website.  I urge you to act and contact your representatives and senators.  You can find their phone numbers here.

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Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama

“Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law.  We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal.  The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk.  It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993.  By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes!  We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.


April 26, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

If you end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), I’d re-enlist the day you sign repeal into law.

For thirteen years, I served in the United States Air Force where I attained the rank of major before I was discharged under DADT.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee considers including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill, we’re very close — just two or three votes — to passing repeal in committee. I ask for you to voice your support to put us over the top.

I come from a family with a rich legacy of military service.  My father is a West Point graduate who taught chemistry at the Air Force Academy, flew helicopters in Vietnam, and ultimately retired as a senior officer from the Air Force.  One of my uncles retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  Another uncle served in the Army in Korea.

Growing up, I didn’t really know what civilians did, I just knew I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a military officer.

I joined Air Force ROTC in 1988 and was awarded a scholarship.  I earned my jump wings in 1991.  In 1992, I graduated from ROTC in the top 10% of all graduates nationwide.  In 1993, I went on active duty, just as DADT was becoming a law.

Stationed in Oklahoma, I was named officer of the year for my unit of nearly 1,000 people.  Later, I was one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia.

During my career, I deployed to the Middle East four times.  In my last deployment, I led a team of nearly 200 men and women to operate and maintain the systems used to control the air space over Iraq.  We came under daily mortar attacks, one of which struck one of my Airmen and also caused significant damage to our equipment.  Towards the end of this deployment to Iraq, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force.

In the stress of a war zone, the Air Force authorized us to use our work email accounts for “personal or morale purposes” because private email accounts were blocked for security.

Shortly after I left Iraq — during a routine search of my computer files — someone found that my “morale” was supported by the person I loved — a man.

The email — our modern day letter home — was forwarded to my commander.

I was relieved of my duties, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated.

In my discharge proceeding, several of my former troops wrote character reference letters for me, including one of my squadron commanders. Their letters expressed their respect for me as an officer, their hope to have me back on the job and their shock at how the Air Force was treating me.

Approximately a year after I was relieved of my duties, my Wing Commander recommended I be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, even though the Air Force was actively pursuing my discharge.

But instead, after 16 months, I was given a police escort off the base as if I were a common criminal or a threat to national security.  The severance pay I received was half of what it would have been had I been separated for any other reason.

Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.

Mr. President, I want to serve.  Please fulfill your promise to repeal DADT and give me that chance.

Thank you,

Major Mike Almy

United States Air Force

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