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 title=Today's letter to the President about what life is like under the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy comes from active duty solider returning to Baghdad after his mid-depolyment break. He cannot be identified.

He was outed by a third party and it was brought to his attention he was the target of a DADT investigation.

We’re working around the clock in Baghdad.  My commander informed me that the Army cannot afford to lose me.  I was told that they would prepare my discharge paperwork, “stick it in a Manila envelope, and keep it in a desk—for now.

So, now he's serving honestly, but not with ease of mind. I really can't imagine how it feels for this solider, shipping off to a war zone. Knowing he's risking his life for his country and also knowing, should he be lucky enough to survive, he will return, not to the hero's welcome his straight colleagues enjoy, but to a unceremonious—and thankless—discharge.

 title=Today's Letter: "I’m left knowing just how little the Pentagon and the United States government think of me."

May 14, 2010

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

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you from a kitchen in the state of Washington.  The love of my life is in the other room.  It has been eight months since I saw him last and I cherish every moment we spend together.  Next week, my mid-tour leave will be over and I will return to Iraq and finish my second deployment. I don’t know when I’ll see my partner again.

When serving in a war zone, you learn quite a bit about yourself and what’s important to you.  I’ve had the chance to work on a close and personal level with the people of Iraq, and in doing so, I have realized more than ever that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans should not be taken for granted – we must protect them at all costs.  These freedoms are essential to the very foundation of our society.  Yet so many men and women who fight for these freedoms aren’t allotted their own. Our freedom to love and be loved by whomever we choose. The freedom to live of a life of truth and dignity.

Recently I was informed that the military was investigating me for violating the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Another service member had apparently “outed” me.  At first I felt free:  I didn’t have to lie anymore.  But after that initial sense of relief, I’m left knowing just how little the Pentagon and the United States government think of me.  

Mr. President, my unit is extremely undermanned.  We’re working around the clock in Baghdad.  My commander informed me that the Army cannot afford to lose me.  I was told that they would prepare my discharge paperwork, “stick it in a Manila envelope, and keep it in a desk -- for now.”

One moment they wanted to throw me out and the next they are hiding evidence to keep me in.

My comrades now know that I am gay, and they do not treat me any differently.  Work runs as smoothly as ever, and frankly the only difference I see -- besides my pending job loss -- is that I am free of the burden of having to constantly watch my words and ensure my lies are believable.

Having this out in the open makes things a bit less stressful.  But it’s also clear the Army is only keeping me around until they are done with me.  After I have served my two deployments -- and only a year shy of separating from the military honorably -- I suspect they will kick me to the street.

It’s bad enough that there is a law that denies tens of thousands of service members from serving with integrity, but it’s even worse when such a law is carried out with such inconsistency, without any warning of when it might come down.

If my suspicions are true, my discharge will move forward after my deployment.  I am good enough to serve in war, but not at peace? I will never be at peace until this law is repealed – and neither will my partner.  In fact, he won’t even be informed if I am killed in action.  That might be the hardest part for us both.

Mr. President, when you took office I remember watching your inauguration knowing that history was being made. I remember feeling like this weight was being lifted off of my shoulders.  I truly believed in you, and I still do.

But, Mr. President, please keep your promise to me.

Please do everything in your power to help Congress repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.  Our government called upon us to fight for our country.  So many of us answered the call; we did not delay.  We were sent world’s away to defend your freedoms. Mr. President, won’t you fight for mine?

With deep respect,

A soldier returning to Baghdad

(The writer is currently serving and unable to identify himself publicly.)

Another heartbreaking story. This is actually not an anomaly but part of an observable pattern supported by mountains of empirical data, and reporting: discharges over the 17 years of DADT have waxed and waned according to staffing needs of our military entanglements. [See The Washington Post, 60 Minutes, Columbia University School of Journalism, Metro Source, The Advocate, The Palm Center, Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) Press Release.] The policy is clear: when times are tough, gays are good enough to serve. When we need to trim the payroll, gays are the first to find the door, and discharged without the courtesy of receiving a hero's thanks from the very country they served and sacrificed for. They are escorted out like criminals. From Major Mike Almy's letter to the President, April 26:

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.

It is a discriminatory application of a discriminatory law.

The part that really hurts me, is the thought that our government treats people this way. I used to feel so proud to be an American. I remember standing in grade school and citing the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember watching "Schoolhouse Rock" on Saturday mornings as a child, and getting so wrapped up in the patriotic messages of the American ideals they presented our country as having been built upon.

It's a fraud, though. There is no equality under the law, there is no equal justice. There are men and women who are welcomed home from war as heros.

And there are the men and women whose thanks are delivered by a boot to the ass, the minute they are needed no more. There are soldiers who are heros, and there are soldiers who are just cannon fodder, just filler, not worthy of real appreciation or reward. Why are we allowing this to continue for another day, let alone, year after year after year?

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To raise awareness to the need for Presidential leadership, DADT repeal activists have launched “Stories from the Frontlines:Letters to President Barack Obama.”The new media campaign launched in partnership with Servicemember's Legal Defense Network,is intended 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.

Participating blogs: 365 Gay, The Advocate, AfterElton, AmericaBlog , Ameriqueer, AKAWilliam, The Bilerico Project, BoxTurtleBulletin, BrandFabulousness, The Daily Kos, David In Manhattan, David Mixner, Fired Up Missouri, GoodAsYou, HRCBackStory, Kenneth In The 212, Lez Get Real, LGBTPOV, Michael in Norfolk, Mike Gets Real, Mile High Gay Guy, Open Left, Page One Q, Pam's House Blend, RepealNow, SayenCroWolf, Seattle PI Stepforward, Signorile's The Gist, The New Civil Rights Movement, The Queer Times, Towleroad, We Give A Damn.

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SLDN and other coalition voices 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 House and Senate Armed Services Committees will markup the Defense Authorization bill in a few short weeks.
The Defense Authorization bill represents our best legislative vehicle to bringing repeal to the president’s desk.  It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993.

Sen. Mark Udall told the Denver Post the committee was “within a vote or two” of including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill.  Udall is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Jared Polis, who holds a key position on the House Rules Committee, told the Denver Post he is willing to help insert a similar provision in the House version of the Defense Authorization bill with the help of Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is the lead sponsor of the House repeal bill.

The House Armed Services Committee markup of the Defense Authorization bill is expected May 19.
The Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the Defense Authorization bill is expected the week of May 24.

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• State by State Daily Kos Effort to Shore Up the Votes!

JPMassar, who has been my unsung ally in these efforts providing valuable information and support, has updated his 11 Crucial Senators for repeal diary. In particular, we need the help of Hoosiers, West Virginians, Virginians, First Staters, Bay Staters, Cornhuskers and South Carolinians, so please check it out. Please make the calls, and leave a comment telling us what the staff is saying. Slight changes in the tone and talking points can indicate much about where a Senator stands. Yesterday I noted with a little humor that Bill Nelson is now claiming he's always been a strong supporter of repeal in 2010. Which is news to many who've followed the story closely. This diary contains all relevant contact information.

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Fate of repeal will be decided in the month of May. As time grows short, repeal advocates have multiple strategies are in place. One thing they all share is a need to hear from the public the time is now. Now is the time for LGBT allies to get off the fence and call for equality for their fellow Americans.

New Call to Action: Howard Dean and Democracy for America have joined the effort to End Don't Ask, Don't Tell in 2010. Sign the petition here. The Courage Campaign's goal was 100,000 signatures by Monday, they are now at 70,000. Let's help them over-achieve.

• Contact the White House: The Servicemember's Legal Defnese Network has put out an action item: Not Another Year. They are asking people to call the White House and tell our Commander in Chief to call for repeal in 2010, repeal can't wait until 2011. The moment is now. They say: "Our Congressional allies are not giving up. SLDN isn't giving up. Tell President Obama not to give up either. Call the White House today. (202) 456-1414"

• Contact your Senators: Tell them to support adding repeal to the Senate Defense Spending Budget: these Senators are most key: Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Jim Webb, Robert Byrd and Scott Brown. But call them all. Show them there's a grassroots movement to vote now. SLDN contact tool here.

• Contact your House Representatives: Tell them to support Representative Patrick Murphy's plan to offer DADT repeal legislation as a floor amendment to the military bill. SLDN contact tool here.

• Contact Nancy Pelosi: Tell her to use her authority as Speaker of the House to bring DADT repeal up for a vote in the House. (202) 225-0100

• Contact Senate Armed Services Committee Chairmain Carl Levin (D-MI) and tell him Military Budget Attachment is the way to go. His office in Washington can be reached at: (202) 224-6221

• Become a citizen co-sponsor of repeal at Senator Udall's site.

Update 1: OMG! Yes, I'm gloating, Rachel Maddow just tweeted a link to my post!

"they would prepare my discharge paperwork, stick it in a manila envelope, and keep it in a desk—for now"


Originally posted to Scott Wooledge on Fri May 14, 2010 at 09:56 AM PDT.

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