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is the title of this must-read column by Frank Bruni in today's New York Times

It is about Hal Faulkner, a 79 year old who is dying of cancer.

Faulkner enlisted in the Marines in 1952 and was discharged in 1965, having served more than 3 years and risen from private to sergeant, showing how highly he was regarded.

There were no real blots on his record. No complaints of incompetence or laziness or insubordination. There was only this: A man with whom Hal had spent some off-duty time informed Hal’s commanding officer that Hal was gay. The commanding officer suspected that this was true and, on that basis, determined that Hal had to go. The discharge was classified as “other than honorable.”
Bruni visited Faulkner in his home on Friday, where the old man said the hischarged had wrecked him.  
Although more than half a century has passed since that harsh judgment — he’s 79 now — it has always stayed with him, a tight, stubborn knot of sadness and anger.

“They gave up on me,” he said, referring to the Marines. “I never forget it.” He was haunted in particular by those three words — “other than honorable” — and wanted more than anything to have them excised from his epitaph. That became his dying wish: that those words not outlive him.

Please keep reading.

Before the current administration finally made it possible for gays to serve openly, Bruni tells us, more than 110,000 were discharged from military service for being gay, or being presumed to be gay.  Before Don't Ask Don't Tell many of those discharges were dishonorable, which could permanently prevent someone from any kind of real life in the civilian world.  Even just "other than honorable" were a smear that could have long-term consequences.

Faulkner experienced some of that - he lost one treasured job because of his sexual orientation, so despite a civilian record of success, including economic success, and for years he remained closeted because he feared for his economic future.  He did not even bring his long-term companion to family gatherings until 2005, only a few years before that man died.

He his lived since with full-time assistance.

Since DADT was repealed, Bruni writes,

a process that permits those who were dishonorably discharged to appeal for reclassifications of those dismissals as honorable. A military spokesman said last week that he didn’t know how many veterans had sought to take advantage of it, or with what success. But Hal caught wind of it, and knew that he had to try.
I am not going to go through the rest of the article in detail for one simple reason -  you should read it.  I did tell you it is a must read, and it is.

My wife read it last night and immediately texted me, because I had served in the Marines and she knew I would appreciate the piece.  I did.

As I read it I wondered if were a right-wing bigot to get elected President s/he would direct the military NOT to grant any upgrading of discharges such as what Faulkner sought?  After all, we still have a segment of this country unwilling to accept gays as full members of our society, including four members of the Supreme Court of the United States - it would take replacement of only one of the other five to see a reversal of some of the key decisions that have empowered gays to be more open and to be able to participate more fully and equally in American society.

If one goes to Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC one will encounter an important gravestone  relevant to this story.

Sgt. Leonard Matlovich

Loenard Matlovich died before DADT.  The medal to which he referred was the Bronze Star.

I think of Matlovich and wonder why we do not admit we were wrong in our treatment of gay servicemen, and not require them to apply to have their less than full honorable discharges upgraded to recognize the quality of their service.

I am a Marine.

I served with gay Marines, both in bootcamp and later.

One of the most distinguished Marines of all-time, Commandant Al Gray, was gay, although many of his close friends did not know.  When I heard Jim Webb at his first event after declaring for the United States Senate almost 7 years ago in February of 2006. someone asked him what he thought of DADT, and he said he supported it because these changes take time.  I followed him as he was leaving and introduced myself as a former Marine.  We exchanged the obligatory greetings.  I explained that I had once asked his former fellow high Reagan Defense Department Official Larry Korb about a reference to a gay member of the Joint Chiefs and that Korb had said it was Gray.  Webb stared at me for 30 seconds and then told me that there was blood on the floor to get him confirmed but he was the best man for the job.  Webb had fought for Gray in his capacity as Secretary of the Navy.   I asked if Gray was qualified to serve as Commandant, why couldn't a gay serve as an ordinary Marine?

It is past time for this nation to heal the wounds we have inflicted upon honorable men - and women - who chose to serve this nation in uniform, but whom we treated in a fashion that was less than honorable.

Read the entire Bruni column.

You will be glad that you did.

And you will understand why this was so important to Hal Faulkner.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 03:17:08 AM PST

  •  I had not noticed Pundit Roundup (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vetwife, blue91, Lujane, BlackSheep1

    when I wrote and posted this.  My primary intent was to call attention to the Bruni piece, although I had some additional thoughts I wanted to share.

    I have not gotten used to Mark putting up APR so early on Sunday mornings, so I had missed that he had led that post with Bruni, who well deserves the slot.

    So if you read the Bruni I think we will both be satisfied.


    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 04:37:47 AM PST

  •  There seems to be a strong proclivity in some (4+ / 0-)

    human brains to categorize objects, including other human beings, into groups for purposes of identification. Perhaps there's an inability to see individual entities and register their distinctive characteristics.
    Anyway, I think it is this inclination towards grouping or groupism which accounts for the process of segregating objects and people into similar and dissimilar categories. And, from there, it seems a logical step to like some and dislike others, for the simple reason that it isn't practicable to like everything. In other words, segregation serves an inherent cognitive purpose that has almost no relationship to the characteristics being singled out.
    While that's no consolation to the people being excluded from a community for no good reason, I offer it as an explanation for the apparently intractable nature of segregation. If groups can't be separated, segregated and excluded for one reason, groupists will find another or sink into a mire of great frustration. I suspect that asking them to judge persons on their individual merits is sort of like expecting a color-blind person to distinguish between red and green.
    I suspect the heterosexual antagonism towards homosexuals of either gender has more to do with identification than anything else. That is, homosexuals don't "look" right; their personal appearance does not identify their sexual preferences. So, people who rely on superficial optics, what things "look like," to prompt their behavior, end up being deceived and/or having their advances rejected, and they resent that.
    Think of it as akin to picking a flower and being pricked by a thorn. So the rose is perceived as a threat.

    Of course, if that interpretation is correct, then DADT just made it all worse by excluding the faculty of speech to inform and set matters right. And then, having made matters worse set the stage for addressing the issue more directly to correct it.

    Meanwhile, and this is truly deplorable, DADT made it possible to deny that heterosexual abuse was/is epidemic in the military. Talk about unintended consequences!

    As is almost universally the case, segregation is wrong both because of what it does to the excluded and what it does to everyone else. Some of our natural proclivities that serve us well in dealing with the natural environment are harmful when applied to our own kind. I sometimes ask "if animals have rights, can humans be far behind," but, really, human rights are qualitatively different and special. Recognizing them is an on-going problem. Perhaps there's a cognitive missing link in some people which keeps them from getting the connection. Perhaps segregation is just a primitive instinct, a default that surfaces when some cognitive capacity is missing.

    On the other hand, during an era when U.S. males were being drafted into involuntary servitude by the military, any kind of discharge was likely considered with some ambivalence and the people in charge didn't give it a lot of thought. One might ask whether GWB would have lived long enough to become President had he not been discharged under a cloud because he was obviously a poor pilot. And then there's the question whether John McCain wasn't pushing his luck when he crashed his fourth plane and his captivity, which terminated his military career prematurely, didn't serve to insure his longer service in another venue. Would Hal Faulkner have survived to 79 if he hadn't been discharged prematurely?

    The culture of obedience is irrational. It punishes good behavior. Has to, because only that which is coerced is supportive of its mission -- i.e. the exercise of dominion. Culture and cultivation are inherently un-natural, both in agriculture and in human culture. Seems ironic when one thinks of the stylized self-presentation of a Liberace, for example.

    Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

    by hannah on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 05:37:11 AM PST

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