What A World

What A World: Soldier Girl

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Don’t look now (and don’t ask and don’t tell), but there goes another lesbian marching off to war. EXTRA WEB CONTENT

NancyFord at desk
Nancy Ford

By Nancy Ford

See also WEB SPECIAL:
ALARMING FACTS ABOUT DADT
(from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network)

___________________________

It’s amazing how often my own life parallels the lesbic comings and goings of Showtime’s hit television series, The L Word.

When the tennis-playing character of Dana was diagnosed with breast cancer, a dear, real-life, tennis-playing friend of mine was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Lucky for me, and unlike Dana, Laura survived.

Then as The L Word characters Shane and Carmen planned their wedding, two more of my dear friends were also planning their own wedding. Luckily for my friends, and unlike Shane and Carmen, they actually made it to the altar, and are still together. Gotta love love.

On a more recent episode of The L Word, we learned that Tasha, Alice Pieszecki’s military gal pal, is being recalled to active duty. Moments later, I learned that yet another of my dear friends—let’s call her Lilly—has also been recalled to active military duty. Luckily for Tasha, The L Word is just a fictional TV show; Tasha isn’t really required to report anywhere unless it’s to an L Word fan party during Dinah Shore weekend.

Unlucky for Lilly, her recall is the real deal.

As Alice might say, “What the frickin’ frack?”

I’ve known Lilly since we were both sweet young things playing at Kindred Spirits, that legendary lesbian bar I’ve been known to wax nostalgically about in these pages. Then and now, Lilly always carried a steely resolve about her that I expected would one day carry her far. I was right: A few years later, she began climbing the ranks of the Houston Fire Department. She received her firefighting certification via the Army Reserves in 1991, which is how she now finds herself being called back to active duty.

But wait, some of you may be thinking as you quickly do some head ciphering. Didn’t Kindred Spirits close in the late ’80s? Lilly had to be at least 21 years old then. Uhhh, carry the one.

Let’s cut to the chase. Lilly is 45.

That’s right. Forty-five years old, recalled to active duty.

Mission accomplished, my ass.

Lilly joined the Army Reserves 16 and half years ago, three years before “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was implemented. She thought her 1998 hitch in Bosnia would be her last.

Well, couldn’t she just tell them she’s a lesbian now, but wasn’t when she originally joined ? you ask.

Sure, she could lie. And she could also possibly be court-martialed with a dishonorable discharge, joining the more than presumably 11,000 gay service members the Pentagon has discharged since DADT was implemented in 1994.

Thanks for your service. Now get out.

During her time in the reserves, Lilly routinely observed commanding officers ignoring the “Don’t Pursue” part of DADT, luring questionably queer recruits into confiding in them and then discharging them under suspicion of homosexual conduct.

With a similar discharge, Lilly stands to lose her pension and everything she has worked so valiantly to achieve over the past 16-plus years.

Or maybe not. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network recently told USA Today that it is aware of approximately 500 gay and lesbian troops who are serving openly without consequences—so far. Specifically, Army Sgt. Darren Manzella was recently featured on the CBS news program 60 Minutes , in a segment that showed a video of him kissing his boyfriend. So far, the military has done nothing to indicate Manzella is about to be discharged, nor is it investigating him.

Military discharges for homosexual conduct peaked at 1,273 in 2001, but have plunged since the war in Iraq began. This suspicious statistic, coupled with the fact that the military is ignoring its own standards by retaining some gay service members yet weeding out others, is a glaring sign that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has failed miserably. And the mission is nowhere near accomplished.

Here’s the semi-good news: A year ago, 110 bi-partisan members of Congress reintroduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. The bill would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and replace it with a policy of nondiscrimination. And almost all of the potential presidential candidates endorse repeal of DADT—at least, the Democratic candidates do. Maybe DADT is about to DIE.

Meanwhile, Lilly ships out this month. For the first four months she will tour the country, training units about to be deployed overseas. After that, what happens is anybody’s guess.

Does she want to go the Middle East? Hell, no. She would rather use her skills saving lives, fighting fires right here in Houston. But she has a nephew currently serving in Iraq; maybe her continued service will help return him home safely.

How’s that for serving with honor?

“I’ve seen a lot of bad, but I’m glad to be an American,” Lilly says without a trace of bitterness. “It isn’t the best, but it isn’t the worst. And I like having a choice. It may be limited, but I always have a choice. And I’m proud to serve.”

And we’re proud of you, too, Lilly. But for now, just keep your head down and your mouth shut.

And say hello to Tasha for me.

(Return to top)
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ALARMING FACTS ABOUT DADT
(from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network)

The Pentagon has discharged more than 11,000 service members since the law was implemented in 1994.

On Feb. 28, 2007, 110 bi-partisan members of Congress reintroduced the military readiness enhancement act. The bill would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and replace it with a policy of non-discrimination in our armed forces.

The military has discharged at least 55 Arabic linguists and nine Farsi linguists under DADT in the last 5 years. Discharging linguists because they are gay hurts military readiness. DADT has forced the Pentagon to discharge nearly 800 vital personnel critical for national security, including linguists and military intelligence analysts, according to a 2005 GAO report.

A 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission Report finds that he total cost of implementing DADT between fiscal years 1994 and 2003 was at least $363.8 million. This number is almost twice what was originally reported by GAO.

Many defense contractors hire gay employees that alongside U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Women account for 30 percent of DADT discharges, but comprise only 15 percentof the military.

There are at least 65,000 gay Americans serving on active duty and in the National Guard and Reserves, according to the Urban Institute.

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