Back in 1989, the U.S. Army Reserves threw Col. Margarethe “Grethe” Cammermeyer out of the military when she told the truth during a security clearance interview and acknowledged that she was a lesbian.
Today, 21 years later, the Department of Defense announced that Cammermeyer has been appointed to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.
In announcing Cammermeyer’s appointment — and the appointment of a new committee chair and eight other committee members — Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley said the committee’s work is “vital to the development of informed department policy.”
“The department has made great progress in recognizing the contributions and concerns of women in military service. However, there is still work to be done. The face and capability of our military has changed greatly, not just since the creation of DACOWITS almost 60 years ago, but in the last 10 years. I am thankful for the service of these new committee members and the wise counsel they will provide me and the secretary, to continue to identify and enhance the service of our female service members and as a result, our total force,” Stanley said.
I find Cammermeyer’s appointment today quite interesting, considering her history with the military and its anti-gay policies, especially since it was less than a week ago that the U.S House and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to repeal the current anti-gay policy, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Cammermeyer was kicked out of the military before DADT was ever even a gleam in Bill Clinton’s eye. She was asked, and she told the truth, and the Army Reserves kicked her out, despite an exemplary record as a nurse and an Army officer (she was in Vietnam as an Army nurse before she got married and got pregnant and had to leave the service under another outdated policy that said women in the military couldn’t have dependents).
She had taken a position in 1988 as Chief Nurse of the Washington state National Guard, and it was in 1989 during a security clearance interview that she acknowledged her sexual orientation.
But she took the military to court, and she won. She was reinstated in 1994 — after Congress passed DADT. She worked with Chris Fisher to write her autobiography, “Serving in Silence,” which was released in 1994 and then made into an award-winning movie starring Glenn Close. She was our community’s “poster child” for eliminating anti-gay military policies long before the idea was as widely accepted as it is now.
I met Col. Cammermeyer once, back in 1998, when she came to Dallas. She had retired from the military by that time and was running for Congress (a race she almost won). And I have to say I have rarely met a more impressive woman. I am glad to see her name back in the news and glad to see her getting the respect she has always deserved from the Department of Defense.