For the past two weeks, gay and straight veterans in Ohio have been meeting with Senator Voinovich’s senior district staff to tell their stories of serving under the discriminatory regime of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and to urge the Senator to make ending this discriminatory law a part of his legacy.
The stories they told are ones I’ve heard from veterans across the country—and they are chilling. One man had planned his whole life to serve in the United States Army and proudly enlisted after high school even though he knew he was gay. He believed he could keep his identity hidden and still serve his country. Yet, after years of secrecy, where even his closest friends were kept at arms distance, he turned suicidal. Gratefully he lived to tell his story, but sadly others don’t.
Another young former Marine talked about how proud she was to carry on her family’s tradition of serving in the armed forces. After years of service in a job she loved however, she chose not to reenlist because of the grave emotional and mental strain of always lying. Both of these highly- trained and accomplished veterans are eager to return to uniform when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed.
We learned in these meetings–which built on previous meetings earlier in the year both in Ohio and during the HRC/Servicemembers United Veterans Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.– that Senator Voinovich has come to understand that we are hurting our military readiness by not allowing smart, capable, trained men and women to serve. We believe that he is inclined to vote for repeal, but he still needs to hear from veterans and family members across Ohio to ensure that his vote will indeed be one of which he can be proud—one that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces of the United States of America and will do away with, once and for all, a shameful legacy of discrimination. Please call Senator Voinovich today to tell him your story.