In New Hampshire, support for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is continuing to gain momentum. On Thursday night, Service Employees International Union was kind enough to donate space for volunteers to make calls to veterans in the state. For 3 solid hours, these amazing folks reached out to the vets asking them to leave a message on Senator Gregg’s voicemail in support of repeal. With a vote expected in a few short weeks, there’s simply no time to lose.
While we were diligently calling through hundreds of names, Mary Lou Paquette, one of the key Granite State veterans who is working with the campaign, attended a veteran’s dinner in Manchester with Congressman Paul Hodes. At the dinner, Mary Lou spoke with fellow servicemembers about her own experiences serving under DADT and had the chance to hear the remarks of Retired Major General Paul Eaton. Eaton recently went on record saying “I believe the time to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is now.” Eaton adds his name to an ever-growing list of military brass, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, who support repeal.
Following the veteran’s dinner, Mary Lou made a stop at our Concord phonebank to thank the volunteers for their work. Amidst laughter, a few mishaps and more than a few fruitful conversations on the phones, Mary Lou got there just in time to listen to us debrief about the night and had a special message of thanks to convey.
She shared her personal story with our volunteers, recounting 21 years of service and 21 years of feeling she had to lie about who she was in order to serve her country. She told us about the discharges she watched fellow soldiers endure, the suicides, the make-believe boyfriends and girlfriends and the ever pressing task of living under the paranoia of being “found out.” Mary Lou retired ten years before her time.
“Are you going to come back? Are you going to make more calls for this?” Mary Lou asked at the end of the evening. Everyone gave a resounding yes, and it was easy to see just how much Mary Lou’s story had touched everyone in the room. This is why it is essential that as we press on with this campaign and we work to engage other veterans, straight and gay, to tell us their stories of what it really means to serve under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Will you help us?
Senator Gregg needs to hear from you about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Contact Christine Sloane at Christine.Sloane@hrc.org for details on how to get involved.