They were everywhere yesterday. Proud men and women of the military celebrating the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” by coming out. There was Randy Phillips at Ramstein Air Base in Germany coming out to his dad in Alabama on the telephone — and via YouTube. And there was Capt. Sarah Pezzat, who emotionally announced at a press conference yesterday, “I’m a United States Marine and I’m a lesbian.”
After 18 years of injustice that saw more than 14,500 able-bodied servicemembers kicked out of the armed forces because of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, the joy and tears were a cathartic release. But not everyone is celebrating. I’m not talking about the cranks who continue to scream that the sky will fall if it’s not propped up by discrimination. I’m talking about those gay men and lesbians for whom the demise of DADT is bittersweet.
This was brought home to me through an e-mail from a friend this morning.
DADT was repealed yesterday. There were celebrations going on all over Washington; indeed the world last night. I wasn’t celebrating.
You see, I find myself happy for current service members and at the same time . . . jealous. During my time in service, it was hard to be gay. You wouldn’t tell your roommate. Yesterday; some guy comes out in front of the whole world.
It’s so much easier for service members today; congratulate them and be happy for them. But don’t forget those that suffered in silence.
I wonder if people that lived through the civil rights campaigns felt the same way.
His name is Clifton E. Barr, MSgt. United States Air Force and Air National Guard (Ret). During 20 years of service in combat communications, he was stationed at Fairchild AFB (Spokane, Wash.), Camp Murray (Tacoma, Wash.) and Andrews AFB. Barr also did a short tour in Kuwait during the “no-fly” days after Desert Storm.
I would not have been able to tell you his name before yesterday. But now that you know his name, think of him and all the others who served in silence who view this new day with mixed emotions. The compromises and sacrifices they made to serve their country despite the cost to their (and the military’s) integrity and the danger of discovery must not be forgotten in today’s euphoria.