Mission accomplished on DADT repeal

By Dave Guy-Gainer

After the signing ceremony on Wednesday, 15 of us made the trek from C Street to the Mayflower Hotel on foot to have brunch.

For the most part, the group was silent and being self-reflective. Major Mike Almy and I walked together and discussed what had happened to him and the E-Ticket ride of the repeal in Congress. We discussed his future and how it looked so much brighter now than it had less than a week prior.

Arriving at the hotel, Joe Tom Easley stopped all of us and reminded us that the hotel restaurant was where J. Edgar Hoover once had lunch with his male lover every day for the last 20 years of his life. The space where Hoover’s permanently reserved lunch table sat is now a PINK store. How appropriate, I thought.

After we sat down, nearly all had e-mails and voice mails to deal with — mostly from press asking for interviews and thoughts. We ordered a bottle of champagne and toasted the fall of this one domino in the fight for equality.

Then the conversation changed. It became one more like you would hear when a bunch of lesbians and gays sit down for a meal. One person said, “We need to get Barney Frank to look gayer. Maybe darken his hair and put in a few highlights.” People roared with laughter. We talked about Christmas plans — most of which had been obliterated by the call to travel to D.C. We talked a lot about our friends over the years that were not at the ceremony. We teased each other.

When brunch was over, there were heartfelt hugs and back pats and we each went our separate ways. Probably all thinking what I was — is this the last we’ll see of each other or is there a cause that will bring us back together?

I caught myself being myself at Reagan Airport — joking with strangers, opening the door for a lady struggling with bags and kids, telling the agent that I liked her rainbow pin. Wow, I thought. You had become so focused and perhaps a little too humorless.

When I boarded the plane I reached inside my coat pocket to pull out the notes I had made, the list of strategy options we were considering, the confidential list of congressional targets, the board briefing on legal support statistics, my talking points to memorize, my to-do list — but I found nothing in the pocket. That’s when it finally sunk in. I was leaving Washington, D.C., with nothing remaining to do. The passenger beside me looked at me strangely when I laughed out loud with eyes full of tears and said to myself, “Mission accomplished.”

I am taking Aaron Belkin’s advice. I asked him at dinner the other night, “What next?” He said, “A nap, Chief.” So, this old Santa Chief is off over this most wonderful of all Christmases to have cookies, milk and lotsa naps! I’ll be back on Monday, though, to do what I can on the certification and transition. After 10 years of negative, I’ll finally get to help with the positive aspects of change.

Implosion cancelled.

Dave Guy-Gainer is a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who lives in Tarrant County.

—  admin

Air Force Major Mike Almy, SLDN respond to McCain interview with reporters

You’ll recall that yesterday, Sen. John McCain was cornered by The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld and MetroWeekly’s Chris Geidner about his outrageous claim that there aren’t any witch hunts going on under DADT after the Senate failed to break a filibuster on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

MCCAIN: I dont’ care what you say! And I don’t care what others say. I’ve seen it in action. I’ve seen it in action. I have sons in the military, I know the military very well. So they’re not telling you the truth.

ELEVELD: Senator, just to make sure…

MCCAIN: Just to make sure. We do not go out and seek out and find out….

ELEVELD: Private emails are not being searched? Private emails are not being searched?

MCCAIN: …See if someone is gay or not. We do not go out and see whether someone is gay or not.

ELEVELD: There are documented cases…

MCCAIN: They do not, they do not, they do not. You can say that they are, you can say [inaudible] it’s not true!… Yea, I’d like to see…

GEIDNER: It is the case of Mike Almy, Senators.

McCain and Almy were on Rachel’s show:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Today, Mike Almy has come forward to comment on the Arizona Senator’s befuddled assertions in a letter.

September 22, 2010

U.S. Sen. John McCain

241 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Sen. McCain,

I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of this year and told the story of my discharge from the military because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). You were in attendance that day and heard me tell my story of how the Air Force conducted an open-ended search of my private emails, solely to determine if I had violated the DADT law.

On Tuesday, September 21, you emphatically denied that the military conducts searches of private emails because of DADT. When challenged by reporters who mentioned my name, you said “bring him to my office.” Senator, I respectfully ask for an opportunity to do so to discuss this law that took my career.

In this letter I will again share with you my story, as I did during the committee hearing last March.

Almy continues below the fold.

Once DADT is history, I plan to return to active duty as an officer and a leader in the Air Force.

For thirteen years, I served in the United States Air Force where I attained the rank of major before I was discharged under DADT.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee considers including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill, we’re very close — just two or three votes — to passing repeal in committee. I ask for you to voice your support to put us over the top.

I come from a family with a rich legacy of military service. My father is a West Point graduate who taught chemistry at the Air Force Academy, flew helicopters in Vietnam, conducting search and rescue operations for downed aircrews, and ultimately retired as a senior officer from the Air Force. One of my uncles retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Another uncle served in the Army in Korea.

Growing up, I didn’t really know what civilians did, I just knew I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a military officer.

I joined Air Force ROTC in 1988 and was awarded a scholarship. I earned my jump wings in 1991. In 1992, I graduated from ROTC in the top 10% of all graduates nationwide. In 1993, I went on active duty, just as DADT was becoming a law.

Stationed in Oklahoma, I was named officer of the year for my unit of nearly 1,000 people. Later, I was one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia.

During my career, I deployed to the Middle East four times. In my last deployment, I led a team of nearly 200 men and women to operate and maintain the systems used to control the air space over Iraq. We came under daily mortar attacks, one of which struck one of my Airmen and also caused significant damage to our equipment. Towards the end of this deployment to Iraq, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force.

In the stress of a war zone, the Air Force authorized us to use our work email accounts for “personal or morale purposes” because private email accounts were blocked for security.

Shortly after I left Iraq — during a routine search of my computer files — someone found that my “morale” was supported by the person I loved — a man.

The email — our modern day letter home — was forwarded to my commander.

I was relieved of my duties, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated.

In my discharge proceeding, several of my former troops wrote character reference letters for me, including one of my squadron commanders. Their letters expressed their respect for me as an officer, their hope to have me back on the job and their shock at how the Air Force was treating me.

Approximately a year after I was relieved of my duties, my Wing Commander recommended I be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, even though the Air Force was actively pursuing my discharge.

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.

Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.

Senator McCain, I’ve had no greater honor than leading men and women in the United States Air Force, in harm’s way, to defend the freedom’s we enjoy in this country, as you yourself have honorably done. I genuinely hope you will support me in my endeavor to return to the Air Force as an officer and a leader.

Thank you,

Mike Almy

Former Major, USAF

Statement by Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“Sen. John McCain is either ignoring U.S. Senate testimony that showed the military was proactively seeking out gay and lesbian service members for discharge under ‘Don’t Ask’, or he is openly deceiving Americans after his shameless filibuster.  Either way, McCain is grossly out of touch and factually off the mark. Air Force Major Almy testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, where McCain was present, that the Air Force proactively went into his emails – authorized for “personal or morale purposes” while at war – and found that he was gay.  Major Almy never made a statement, even after being asked by his command, to his sexual orientation. And if McCain didn’t filibuster the bill that included repeal, Major Almy also testified that he’d return back the day repeal is certified.”

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

MADDOW: DADT Victim Maj. Mike Almy Vs. “Deceptive” Sen. John McCain

Major Mike Almy, who was booted out of the armed services after the government snooped into his private email, appeared on Rachel Maddow last night to denounce Sen. John McCain as “deliberately deceptive” for denying to gay reporters that the military performs such investigations. Almy points out that McCain “sat twenty feet away from me” during Almy’s testimony about his ejection before Congress.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Reid sets DADT vote

Unless measure passes before November elections, Republican gains could mean an end to repeal possibilities for the time being

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@me.com

Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night
MAKING A POINT | Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night, Sept. 12, with three former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who resigned from the academy to protest the anti-gay policy. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Monday, Sept. 13, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring the defense spending bill with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal measure to the floor next week.

Reid himself confirmed the decision in a post on Twitter, in response to a call by pop star Lady Gaga following MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday night, Sept. 12.

Gaga attended the awards show with three LGBT former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who left the academy in protest over the policy.

The four were U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Hall, former U.S. Air Force Major Mike Almy, former U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Stacy Vasquez and former West Point cadet Katie Miller, all members of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The pop star then spoke about the importance of repealing DADT during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres after the VMAs.

The following day, Gaga sent a Tweet to all her followers urging them to contact Reid and urge him to schedule a Senate vote on repeal. Reid responded with a Tweet saying the vote had been scheduled for this coming week.

The decision — if it sticks — is an important step forward for activists hoping to repeal the federal law that bans openly gay servicemembers from the military.

Many political observers are predicting that Republicans could take over the majority in the Senate and/or House at the mid-term elections. Such a development would almost certainly kill any chance of repeal for DADT during President Barack Obama’s first term.

The DADT repeal language was attached to the annual bill that authorizes Department of Defense spending. The language calls for repeal of the military’s ban on gay servicemembers to begin after the Secretary of Defense receives an “implementation report” he has asked for, due Dec. 1, and after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff have signed a statement certifying that they have considered whatever recommendations are made in the report, prepared the necessary regulations to accompany repeal, and certified that repeal is “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

Fiscal year 2011 begins Oct. 1. With the congressional clock ticking down the last days of fiscal year 2010, the pressure is on to finish off remaining budget bills authorizing spending and appropriating FY 2011 monies.

If Congress fails to settle its budget bills by the end of FY 2010, it has the option of passing “continuing resolutions” — bills that simply set the next year’s fiscal budget at the same levels as the current year.

According to the New York Times, the Senate typically spends about two weeks on the defense spending bill. Last year’s defense authorization bill was passed by the Senate in July, but it took lawmakers more than two months to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions.

So, there is no certainty that DADT will, in fact, come up during the first week or that it will even get a vote before FY 2010 runs out.

Meanwhile, when the defense authorization bill does come to the floor and the Senate begins debate on the language seeking to repeal DADT, the debate is expected to be vigorous, at least from opponents.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republicans have made clear they are steadfastly against repeal. The question is whether Democrats believe support for repeal could lose them votes during the mid-term elections, and potentially control of Congress.

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Maj. Almy Talks DADT Ruling With Maddow

maddow almyMaj. Mike Almy, who testified in July about his discharge from the Air
Force in the federal trial challenging “don’t ask, don’t tell,”  discusses
the landmark ruling during a Friday appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright