Updated 4:19 p.m. ET
The military is preparing to end the almost 18-year ban on gays in the military, a milestone eagerly anticipated by gay rights activists.
“We are ready for this change,” the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, wrote in a memo sent to generals on Monday announcing the change.
“We expect all personnel to follow our values by implementing the repeal fully, fairly and in accordance with policy guidance,” Odierno added. “It is the duty of all personnel to treat each other with dignity and respect.”
The Pentagon is scheduled to formally repeal the policy on Tuesday afternoon during a news conference with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen.
Dozens of conversations with gay rights advocates and current and former troops suggest that they’re not expecting a wave of “coming out” announcements or gestures by active-duty or reserve troops. Some troops and activists said, however, that at least a few service members are likely to use “Repeal Day” as a way to draw attention to themselves.
Some troops started celebrating the change in policy over the weekend. According to one soldier who e-mailed from Kuwait after ending a tour of duty in Iraq, “We fully expect to see an official repeal come in time for our landing in the United States.”
The soldier, who asked that he not be identified publicly before the ban’s official end, said he celebrated the impending change with his new boyfriend, who is also a soldier, by drinking non-alcoholic champagne bought from a Starbucks at Kuwait’s Camp Virginia.
“There’s actually quite a few conversations about it here and there,” the soldier said.
As far as coming out publicly, “I’m not planning on anything flashy,” he said. “I don’t plan on letting a lot of people know, as I still want to keep that part of my life personal.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s official repeal, the gay rights group Servicemembers United is hosting a “Countdown to Repeal” party Monday night at the Washington club Town. The group is hosting similar parties in Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Minneapolis and Monterey, Calif.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that has represented service members discharged for violating the ban, is hosting similar festivities on Tuesday in Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C., and West Hollywood. The group’s members are also hosting at least 100 other smaller parties in states across the country. For a list of those parties, click here.
HBO is airing a documentary Tuesday night, “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” to mark the end of the policy.
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Read some of Ed O’Keefe’s reporting on “don't ask, don’t tell”: