Letter From Sister of Decorated Pilot Pending Discharge Under DADT

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Wrapping up this week’s letters, we hear from Angela Trumbauer. Angela’s brother is decorated Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who faces the threat of discharge under DADT:

August 27, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear Mr. Johnson and General Ham:

My name is Angela Trumbauer.  I am an Air Force enlisted veteran.  I was born and raised in a family of 8 children by my father, a retired Air Force officer (deceased 1979), and my widowed mother, a former Air Force officer, who just turned 78 years young this month.  I am married to a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant.  My stepson is an active-duty Air Force Technical Sergeant.  My brother is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a highly decorated 19-year Air Force officer.  I hail from the “military family” in every sense.

Over Victor’s military career, our family had limited opportunities to see and spend time with him.  He came home to Ohio for visits once or twice a year, usually over the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.  I took my kids to visit him at his assigned Air Force Bases a few times over the years.  We prepared and sent him care packages when he was deployed to Iraq.  Vic sent me care packages when I was stationed in Greece years ago, while he was still a high school student.  Reflecting back, I never gave much thought to his short 2-3 day trips home or the seemingly strained nature of the visits.  All that changed in May, 2009, however, when my brother was forced to reach out and seek our family’s support in the most difficult battle of his life – fighting against his discharge under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

The revelations that have come to light and emotions evoked throughout the past year have brought a great sense of loss and heartache to our family, not unlike that experienced in grief and death.  It saddened me deeply to realize that my single, younger brother could never enjoy a close personal relationship, free from fear of persecution or harassment, throughout his near 20 years serving.  His family back home was free to enjoy wonderful family relationships with their spouses and children, but Vic was never to experience that same freedom and privilege while in uniform.  I often wonder how alone or lonely he must have felt all those years, especially when he couldn’t even share his personal struggles with his very own family.

I recently took the opportunity to ask my brother who he would like us to notify in the event of an emergency or upon his death, after I realized he had no one else to confide in.   Most soldiers and airmen have a support system in place, where their spouses or immediate family members are aware of their dying wishes and will share urgent news or handle the appropriate notifications with those closest to their loved one.  In my brother’s case, I just figured the military would let us know if something happened to him and that no one else aside from his family members needed to be notified, since he was single and has no children.

Under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the Fehrenbach family has been robbed of truly knowing and loving our brother for who he is for nearly two decades.  He chose to serve in silence to protect his own family – the only family he can legally call his own – from potential exposure to investigation under DADT.  We can never get those years back.  Nor can we accept the damage to and destruction of our family’s long-standing military history that will result from Lt. Col. Fehrenbach’s discharge under this discriminatory and unjust law.  Our family legacy goes back generations, in which our father, mother, grandfathers, spouses, children, uncles and cousins have all answered the call to serve.

Despite all the suffering that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has caused my brother and our family, we have reaped a benefit far greater than words can measure.   Since I’ve come to know and understand my brother’s true identity, and because he no longer has to hide any part of himself from me, our relationship has become much closer and deeper, where we laugh and share more than ever before.  Vic can now be completely open and honest with me – an element that was clearly missing in our lives and relationship in the past.  I can’t express the immense pleasure I’ve experienced in getting to know my baby brother  — “Uncle Baldy” as some of our 17 nieces and nephews call him.

In light of the infinite family gains that the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” will yield, I sincerely believe that allowing open service is necessary, right, and just in every sense.  Each and every service member deserves the FULL love and support of their family and friends, without fear of persecution, discrimination and harassment.  A strong sense of support and love is essential for our troops at all times.  It only stands to reason that overall military performance is enhanced and the resolve to accomplish the mission is strengthened by complete and unhindered family bonds.

Sincerely,
Angela Trumbauer

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners and families of service members serving in silence under this failed law.

To join in HRC and SLDN’s joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Letter From Father of a Sailor Discharged by DADT

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Today’s letter comes from Jose J. Rocha, the father of a sailor who endured harassment and was eventually discharged because of DADT:

August 26, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear Mr. Johnson and General Ham:

I am a heavy machinery truck driver; I have been all of my life.  A blue collar American who raised my son, Joseph Rocha, in a Roman Catholic home with strong Spanish values, after his mother lost custody for drug abuse. Throughout school Joseph turned out to be an awarded scholar, athlete and leader.  I did my best to provide a good home for him.  But, I wasn’t prepared for my only boy to turn out gay.

Early on in his senior year, at 17, he left the house on one condition: that he never return.

I learned through my wife that he was excelling quickly in the military.  He was promoted twice in his first year and was hand-picked for explosive detection school.  We had no idea that during his 28 months in the Middle East, he was being abused by his superiors because he wouldn’t tell them if he was gay or not.  He only ever called home to tell my wife he loved working with the dogs and about his aspirations of becoming an officer.

He sent gifts to his kid siblings for every single holiday and called them religiously.  He was a hero to my girls.  I struggled through our silence knowing that I was missing out on my son.  As it sank in that Joseph might be injured or killed in the service, it became clear how irrelevant who he wants to love is.  On a phone call home to congratulate me for my birthday, I told my son for the first time that I was truly proud of him and asked him to live his life for himself, not for me or anyone else.

After receiving a Naval Marine Corp Achievement Medal for his service overseas and being accepted to Naval Academy Preparatory School to go on to the United States Naval Academy and earn a commission, Joseph was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Recently, just after his mother’s death, I asked him what he would be doing this year when he becomes the first in our family to graduate from college.  I was surprised when he said that he wants to serve again.  I asked him why he would go back after all they did to him.  I asked him if he was prepared to go back to the Middle East.  He replied that he was never meant to be done serving.

Joseph contributed to my family and to the families of each of his co-workers: loyalty, respect and service.  My son had always lead by example and in coming out he has taught his siblings pride and his favorite value, integrity.

I am proud of my son and it makes me sick now to read the Navy documents detailing the abuse he stomached in order to try and save his career.  He is a brave young man and a patriot.  I know now first hand that the old ways are not always right and I ask that you encourage your superiors to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Please allow my son, Joseph C. Rocha, and countless like him, to resume their military careers.

Sincerely,
Jose J. Rocha

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners and families of service members serving in silence under this failed law.

To join in HRC and SLDN’s joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

A letter to the Pentagon about DADT from Joseph Rocha’s dad, Jose

As we all know, the Pentagon is currently surveying military spouses about the repeal of DADT. To provide a fuller picture of how DADT impacts families, SLDN is releasing “a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.”

And, wow. Today’s letter is really powerful. Joseph Rocha’s dad, Jose, kicked him out of the house when he learned that his son is gay. Today, Jose wrote a letter to the Pentagon Working Group about the need to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

August 26, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Dear Mr. Johnson and General Ham:

I am a heavy machinery truck driver; I have been all of my life. A blue collar American who raised my son, Joseph Rocha, in a Roman Catholic home with strong Spanish values, after his mother lost custody for drug abuse. Throughout school Joseph turned out to be an awarded scholar, athlete and leader. I did my best to provide a good home for him. But, I wasn’t prepared for my only boy to turn out gay.

Early on in his senior year, at 17, he left the house on one condition: that he never return.

I learned through my wife that he was excelling quickly in the military. He was promoted twice in his first year and was hand-picked for explosive detection school. We had no idea that during his 28 months in the Middle East, he was being abused by his superiors because he wouldn’t tell them if he was gay or not. He only ever called home to tell my wife he loved working with the dogs and about his aspirations of becoming an officer.

He sent gifts to his kid siblings for every single holiday and called them religiously. He was a hero to my girls. I struggled through our silence knowing that I was missing out on my son. As it sank in that Joseph might be injured or killed in the service, it became clear how irrelevant who he wants to love is. On a phone call home to congratulate me for my birthday, I told my son for the first time that I was truly proud of him and asked him to live his life for himself, not for me or anyone else.

After receiving a Naval Marine Corp Achievement Medal for his service overseas and being accepted to Naval Academy Preparatory School to go on to the United States Naval Academy and earn a commission, Joseph was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Recently, just after his mother’s death, I asked him what he would be doing this year when he becomes the first in our family to graduate from college. I was surprised when he said that he wants to serve again. I asked him why he would go back after all they did to him. I asked him if he was prepared to go back to the Middle East. He replied that he was never meant to be done serving.

Joseph contributed to my family and to the families of each of his co-workers: loyalty, respect and service. My son had always lead by example and in coming out he has taught his siblings pride and his favorite value, integrity.

I am proud of my son and it makes me sick now to read the Navy documents detailing the abuse he stomached in order to try and save his career. He is a brave young man and a patriot. I know now first hand that the old ways are not always right and I ask that you encourage your superiors to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Please allow my son, Joseph C. Rocha, and countless like him, to resume their military careers.

Sincerely,
Jose J. Rocha

CC:

U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Joseph’s letter to President Obama is here.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Letter from Retired Sailor Whose Partner Was Discharged by DADT

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Today’s letter comes from Lee Quillian,a retired Chief Petty Officer whose partner was discharged by DADT:

August 25, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

I am a retired military sailor, living with a wonderful person who was fired because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).

Because of my experience with the military, I understand the life, the duty days, the underway time, the training cycles.  Even the simple events of life at sea – how wondrous or disastrous mail call can be, depending on whether or not you get a letter; the whirlwind caused by the simple announcement of liberty call; and the sounds of the Navy – the bells, the whistles, the constant hum and different noises of shipboard living.  These are just some of the various events and sometimes intense evolutions that occur around the universe called the United States Ship.  I’ve been stationed on five of the best ships in the Navy.  I speak the language, I know all the acronyms, and it’s an organization I’ve spent most of my closeted life in.

If my highly decorated and accomplished spouse had been able to stay in the Navy, her professional life would have included all of those same events mentioned previously, and more.  She would have undoubtedly been stationed on board a ship of awesome capabilities.  That ship would deploy, do training missions, visit foreign and domestic ports, and represent the world’s finest Navy.  She would stand watch, hopefully in something better than a port and starboard rotation.  If you don’t know what a port and starboard rotation is, just imagine working at your current job, six hours on, then take six hours off, then go back to work for six hours.  Repeat 24/7 for the next 180 days.

She might even be sent on an Individual Augmentation (IA) to Iraq or Afghanistan while in her current assignment.  During an Individual Augmentation, she would literally be loaned out to cover a critical needs job, however long that may be, in addition to her regularly scheduled deployment cycle.

I, however, would have to adhere to a strict set of rules when dealing with a deployment, whether it be an IA or ship deployment.  Here are just some to think about – they reflect what life is like for military families under DADT:

  • Set up an alternative e-mail account that wouldn’t show the gender of my name;
  • Establish a very generic, genderless form of communications over e-mail;
  • Never write “I love you” – or nothing that could indicate anything at all about the nature of our relationship;
  • No access to the Ship’s Ombudsman – a point person for military families for all things very, very important relating to the ship and her crew;
  • Create a plan for dropping her off at ship – making sure our goodbye or welcome is in secret;
  • Never spending the remaining few hours on the ship like with the rest of families before a deployment;
  • Worrying about how close to the pier I could be without raising suspicion;
  • Before leaving home, be sure to say final goodbyes – no hugs and certainly no kisses allowed on or near the base;
  • Not being able to participate in any family video postcards to the ship;
  • Still trying to figure out how to deal with those pesky customs forms required when mailing anything to a “Fleet Post Office” – they require a name, so maybe use her parent’s name or the dog’s name;
  • Don’t put anything too personal in care packages – those might arrive via barge, waterlogged and falling apart – therefore, they might be opened;
  • As a result of the rough handling from a helicopter mail drop, any other boxes I send could be opened if damaged;
  • Don’t get sick, seriously sick, and don’t get hurt while spouse is gone;
  • Hope she doesn’t get hurt as no one would tell me – I can’t be listed as her next of kin in her service record without raising eyebrows;
  • Remember to have her pack her personal cell phone and the charger for use six to nine months later – can’t use any of the ship’s communications, so the cell is the only way to coordinate a pickup upon return home;
  • Knowing that when the other families are waiting at the pier, I wouldn’t be able to stand among them anxiously awaiting my sailor’s return.

This isn’t everything.  It’s just a glimpse.

Sincerely,
Chief Petty Officer Lee Quillian, USN (Ret.)

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners and families of service members serving in silence under this failed law.

To join in HRC and SLDN’s joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

A letter to the Pentagon about DADT from Chief Petty Officer Lee Quillian, USN (Ret.)

The Pentagon is currently surveying military spouses about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. SLDN “will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.”

Today’s letter is from a retired servicemember who lives “with a wonderful person who was fired because of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT).” Retired Chief Petty Officer Lee Quillian describes the level of deceit required to serve without being exposed. It’s intense and it’s wrong. Pretty sure the Pentagon Working Group won’t be learning about what life is really like for gay and lesbian servicemembers from its survey:

August 25, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

I am a retired military sailor, living with a wonderful person who was fired because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).

Because of my experience with the military, I understand the life, the duty days, the underway time, the training cycles. Even the simple events of life at sea – how wondrous or disastrous mail call can be, depending on whether or not you get a letter; the whirlwind caused by the simple announcement of liberty call; and the sounds of the Navy – the bells, the whistles, the constant hum and different noises of shipboard living. These are just some of the various events and sometimes intense evolutions that occur around the universe called the United States Ship. I’ve been stationed on five of the best ships in the Navy. I speak the language, I know all the acronyms, and it’s an organization I’ve spent most of my closeted life in.

If my highly decorated and accomplished spouse had been able to stay in the Navy, her professional life would have included all of those same events mentioned previously, and more. She would have undoubtedly been stationed on board a ship of awesome capabilities. That ship would deploy, do training missions, visit foreign and domestic ports, and represent the world’s finest Navy. She would stand watch, hopefully in something better than a port and starboard rotation. If you don’t know what a port and starboard rotation is, just imagine working at your current job, six hours on, then take six hours off, then go back to work for six hours. Repeat 24/7 for the next 180 days.

She might even be sent on an Individual Augmentation (IA) to Iraq or Afghanistan while in her current assignment. During an Individual Augmentation, she would literally be loaned out to cover a critical needs job, however long that may be, in addition to her regularly scheduled deployment cycle.

I, however, would have to adhere to a strict set of rules when dealing with a deployment, whether it be an IA or ship deployment. Here are just some to think about – they reflect what life is like for military families under DADT:

· Set up an alternative e-mail account that wouldn’t show the gender of my name;

· Establish a very generic, genderless form of communications over e-mail;

· Never write “I love you” – or nothing that could indicate anything at all about the nature of our relationship;

· No access to the Ship’s Ombudsman – a point person for military families for all things very, very important relating to the ship and her crew;

· Create a plan for dropping her off at ship – making sure our goodbye or welcome is in secret;

· Never spending the remaining few hours on the ship like with the rest of families before a deployment;

· Worrying about how close to the pier I could be without raising suspicion;

· Before leaving home, be sure to say final goodbyes – no hugs and certainly no kisses allowed on or near the base;

· Not being able to participate in any family video postcards to the ship;

· Still trying to figure out how to deal with those pesky customs forms required when mailing anything to a “Fleet Post Office” – they require a name, so maybe use her parent’s name or the dog’s name;

· Don’t put anything too personal in care packages – those might arrive via barge, waterlogged and falling apart – therefore, they might be opened;

· As a result of the rough handling from a helicopter mail drop, any other boxes I send could be opened if damaged;

· Don’t get sick, seriously sick, and don’t get hurt while spouse is gone;

· Hope she doesn’t get hurt as no one would tell me – I can’t be listed as her next of kin in her service record without raising eyebrows;

· Remember to have her pack her personal cell phone and the charger for use six to nine months later – can’t use any of the ship’s communications, so the cell is the only way to coordinate a pickup upon return home;

· Knowing that when the other families are waiting at the pier, I wouldn’t be able to stand among them anxiously awaiting my sailor’s return.

This isn’t everything. It’s just a glimpse.

Sincerely,

Chief Petty Officer Lee Quillian, USN (Ret.)

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. John S. McCain, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Member, Senate Armed Services Committee




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Letter From Mother of an Army Medic Discharged under DADT

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Today’s letter comes from Nancy S. Manzella, the mother of an Army medic who was discharged by DADT after serving openly during a combat tour:

August 24, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

My name is Nancy Manzella and I have been a mother for 34 years.  My husband and I live in rural Western New York where we have made our home at a grape vineyard and have raised three wonderful sons.  We now have beautiful daughters-in-law and grandchildren.  We are proud to say that we are the all American family.

I also was a military mom for six years.  Our son, Darren Manzella, served two tours in the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Soldier in the United States Army.  He was promoted to sergeant, was a team leader of a medical squad, and conducted more than 100 12-hour patrols in the streets of Baghdad, treating wounds and evacuating casualties of sniper fire and roadside bombs.

Darren was awarded the Combat Medical Badge, honoring him for treating American and Iraqi troops while under fire.  He saved lives while putting his own in precarious situations by treating gunshot wounds to blast injuries and more.  He was “out there” and our family knew he was in constant danger.

As anyone who is familiar with our military knows, service takes tremendous sacrifices, not only for those who serve, but for their loved ones they leave behind.  Our family was always concerned for Darren’s safety, as all military families are for their sons and daughters in uniform.  We were also concerned for him because he was openly gay while he served his second tour.  We knew that anyone in a war zone was at risk of being harmed at any time, but we also understood that because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Darren was especially vulnerable.  He could be fired, forced out of the Army, and potentially face harassment and abuse.  The stress was incredible.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” not only affects the gay and lesbian service members’ lives, but also throws their loved ones, friends, and all family members’ lives into a stressful nightmare.  We cannot get to them if they need us for support, as they are thousands of miles away.  The ban impacts so many lives adversely.  It causes unbearable stress on everyone concerned, especially with the constant fear that we may slip up, we might inadvertently “out” them even in a simple letter from home.  The “All American Families” who have gay or lesbian service members serving are living with this stress every day.

As parents, this law offends us deeply.  It tells us that our gay and lesbian children who are in uniform and putting their lives on the line every day, saving lives, are not good enough to serve their country.  The law discriminates against family members, forcing fear and anguish into their lives.  Our sons and daughters should be judged on their performance, loyalty to country and bravery, not their sexual orientation.

We need to support all American military families – straight or gay.

Our son was fired under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and I still believe to this day he would willingly serve his country again if this law ended.  I can tell this discharge not only affected his military career, but caused him to question his self-worth.   Under the law it doesn’t seem to matter how good you are at your job; how many lives you save or people you support; or how patriotic and dedicated you might be.  If you happen to be gay or lesbian, this law says you are somehow “less than.”

The Army teaches honor and integrity and holds those values dear.  Despite these values, the Army still isn’t allowed to let our gay and lesbian troops live up to that potential because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Under this law, troops are forced to be dishonest, to put integrity to the side, and to live in the closet – with their families closeted beside them – denying who they are.

They need the opportunity to “Be All That They Can Be.”

I am urging you to support the repeal of this unjust law.  The values that we gave our kids, and the values the Army told Darren they believe, are really the values we should strive for.  But until this law is gone, those values are undermined by unfairness, discrimination and prejudice.  I realize that our country is in the midst of great change having to make many crucial decisions.  I also understand that the Administration has “a lot on their plate” right now.  I’m an American, too, and have many concerns about our country.  But, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal cannot and should not be pushed down the road.

Sincerely,

- Nancy S. Manzella

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners and families of service members serving in silence under this failed law.

To join in HRC and SLDN’s joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

A letter to the Pentagon about DADT from Nancy Manzella, a military mom

The Pentagon is in the process of surveying military spouses about the repeal of DADT. SLDN “will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.”

Yesterday’s letter was from a military spouse, Lynne Kennedy, the partner of Capt. Joan Garrah, U.S. Navy (Ret.). Today’s letter is from a military mom, Nancy S. Manzella. Her son, Former Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, was discharged under DADT:

August 24, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

My name is Nancy Manzella and I have been a mother for 34 years. My husband and I live in rural Western New York where we have made our home at a grape vineyard and have raised three wonderful sons. We now have beautiful daughters-in-law and grandchildren. We are proud to say that we are the all American family.

I also was a military mom for six years. Our son, Darren Manzella, served two tours in the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Soldier in the United States Army. He was promoted to sergeant, was a team leader of a medical squad, and conducted more than 100 12-hour patrols in the streets of Baghdad, treating wounds and evacuating casualties of sniper fire and roadside bombs.

Darren was awarded the Combat Medical Badge, honoring him for treating American and Iraqi troops while under fire. He saved lives while putting his own in precarious situations by treating gunshot wounds to blast injuries and more. He was “out there” and our family knew he was in constant danger.

As anyone who is familiar with our military knows, service takes tremendous sacrifices, not only for those who serve, but for their loved ones they leave behind. Our family was always concerned for Darren’s safety, as all military families are for their sons and daughters in uniform. We were also concerned for him because he was openly gay while he served his second tour. We knew that anyone in a war zone was at risk of being harmed at any time, but we also understood that because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Darren was especially vulnerable. He could be fired, forced out of the Army, and potentially face harassment and abuse. The stress was incredible.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” not only affects the gay and lesbian service members’ lives, but also throws their loved ones, friends, and all family members’ lives into a stressful nightmare. We cannot get to them if they need us for support, as they are thousands of miles away. The ban impacts so many lives adversely. It causes unbearable stress on everyone concerned, especially with the constant fear that we may slip up, we might inadvertently “out” them even in a simple letter from home. The “All American Families” who have gay or lesbian service members serving are living with this stress every day.

As parents, this law offends us deeply. It tells us that our gay and lesbian children who are in uniform and putting their lives on the line every day, saving lives, are not good enough to serve their country. The law discriminates against family members, forcing fear and anguish into their lives. Our sons and daughters should be judged on their performance, loyalty to country and bravery, not their sexual orientation.

We need to support all American military families – straight or gay.

Our son was fired under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and I still believe to this day he would willingly serve his country again if this law ended. I can tell this discharge not only affected his military career, but caused him to question his self-worth. Under the law it doesn’t seem to matter how good you are at your job; how many lives you save or people you support; or how patriotic and dedicated you might be. If you happen to be gay or lesbian, this law says you are somehow “less than.”

The Army teaches honor and integrity and holds those values dear. Despite these values, the Army still isn’t allowed to let our gay and lesbian troops live up to that potential because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Under this law, troops are forced to be dishonest, to put integrity to the side, and to live in the closet – with their families closeted beside them – denying who they are.

They need the opportunity to “Be All That They Can Be.”

I am urging you to support the repeal of this unjust law. The values that we gave our kids, and the values the Army told Darren they believe, are really the values we should strive for. But until this law is gone, those values are undermined by unfairness, discrimination and prejudice. I realize that our country is in the midst of great change having to make many crucial decisions. I also understand that the Administration has “a lot on their plate” right now. I’m an American, too, and have many concerns about our country. But, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal cannot and should not be pushed down the road.

Sincerely,

Nancy S. Manzella

CC:

U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman,Member, Senate Armed Services Committee




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Letter From Partner of Navy Officer Who Served in Silence

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Today’s letter comes from Lynne Kennedy, the partner of an Navy officer who was forced into silence by DADT:

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC:       U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

In 1990 – while working as a reference librarian at the Library of Congress — I met Joan Darrah, an active duty Naval Officer.  I already knew about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but I soon woke up to the harsh reality that loved ones of gay and lesbian family members are forced to serve in silence, too.

Over the years, Joan had adjusted to living two lives — in the closet at work and out after hours. For me, it was a bit of an adjustment as I had been fortunate to work for an employer who valued my skills and expertise and realized that my being a lesbian in no way detracted from my ability to do a great job.

I knew that Joan could be deployed at any moment.  She may be away from home for two or three years.  I realized that being with an active duty military officer was even more constricting than I could have possibly imagined and I worried constantly about Joan’s well being.  Yet, through it all, I knew our relationship was worth the compromises.  I knew we had to make it work for Joan to continue to serve our Country.

There were so many things that we had to be careful about. For example, Joan had asked that I not call her at work unless it was truly an emergency. When we were out in public if Joan saw someone from work, I learned to “disappear,” until Joan’s co-worker moved on.  We didn’t dare go to nice restaurants on Valentine’s Day or even Saturday nights. We could not show any familiarity while out in public.  I went to parties at colleagues’ homes alone lest a guest I didn’t know learn that Joan was in the Navy.

The events of September 11, 2001, caused us both appreciate more fully the true impact of DADT on our lives and the reality of our mutual sacrifices. At 8:30 a.m. that morning, Joan went to a meeting in the Pentagon.  At 9:30 a.m., she left that meeting.  At 9:37 a.m., the plane flew into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space that Joan had left less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of her colleagues.

In the days and weeks that followed, Joan went to several funerals and memorial services for her co-workers who had been killed. Most people attended these services with their spouses whose support was critical at this difficult time, yet Joan was forced to go alone, even though I really wanted to be with her to provide support.

As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone I would have been had Joan been killed. The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the “military family,” which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need.  But, none of that support would have been available for me, because under DADT, I didn’t exist.

In fact, I would have been one of the last people to know had Joan been killed, because nowhere in her paperwork or emergency contact information had Joan dared to list my name.

Whenever I hear Joan recount the events of that day, I relive it and realize all over again how devastated I would have been had she been killed.   I also think of the partners of service members injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are unable to get any support from the military and they must be careful about the amount of support they offer to their closeted service member loved ones.

The events of September 11th caused us to stop and reassess exactly what was most important in our lives. During that process, we realized that this discriminatory law was causing us to make a much bigger sacrifice than either of us had ever admitted.

Eight months later, in June 2002, Joan retired from the U.S. Navy, and I retired from the Library of Congress.  If it wasn’t for DADT, we might both still be serving in our respective positions.

-Lynne Kennedy

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners of service members serving in silence under this failed law.

To join in HRC and SLDN’s joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

A letter to the Pentagon about DADT from Lynne Kennedy, a military spouse

The Pentagon is surveying military spouses about the repeal of DADT. Servicemembers United calls that survey “insulting and derogatory.” SLDN wants the Pentogon Working Group to hear from spouses and family members who have been directly impacted by DADT. From SLDN:

With the Pentagon’s family survey now in the field, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones. SLDN is urging supporters of repeal to call, write, and schedule in-district meetings with both their senators as the defense budget, which contains the repeal amendment, moves to the floor just weeks from now. www.sldn.org/action.

Here’s the first letter. It’s from Lynne Kennedy, the partner of Capt. Joan Darrah, U.S. Navy (Ret.):

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

In 1990 – while working as a reference librarian at the Library of Congress — I met Joan Darrah, an active duty Naval Officer. I already knew about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but I soon woke up to the harsh reality that loved ones of gay and lesbian family members are forced to serve in silence, too.

Over the years, Joan had adjusted to living two lives — in the closet at work and out after hours. For me, it was a bit of an adjustment as I had been fortunate to work for an employer who valued my skills and expertise and realized that my being a lesbian in no way detracted from my ability to do a great job.

I knew that Joan could be deployed at any moment. She may be away from home for two or three years. I realized that being with an active duty military officer was even more constricting than I could have possibly imagined and I worried constantly about Joan’s well being. Yet, through it all, I knew our relationship was worth the compromises. I knew we had to make it work for Joan to continue to serve our Country.

There were so many things that we had to be careful about. For example, Joan had asked that I not call her at work unless it was truly an emergency. When we were out in public if Joan saw someone from work, I learned to “disappear,” until Joan’s co-worker moved on. We didn’t dare go to nice restaurants on Valentine’s Day or even Saturday nights. We could not show any familiarity while out in public. I went to parties at colleagues’ homes alone lest a guest I didn’t know learn that Joan was in the Navy.

The events of September 11, 2001, caused us both appreciate more fully the true impact of DADT on our lives and the reality of our mutual sacrifices. At 8:30 a.m. that morning, Joan went to a meeting in the Pentagon. At 9:30 a.m., she left that meeting. At 9:37 a.m., the plane flew into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space that Joan had left less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of her colleagues.

In the days and weeks that followed, Joan went to several funerals and memorial services for her co-workers who had been killed. Most people attended these services with their spouses whose support was critical at this difficult time, yet Joan was forced to go alone, even though I really wanted to be with her to provide support.

As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone I would have been had Joan been killed. The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the “military family,” which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need. But, none of that support would have been available for me, because under DADT, I didn’t exist.

In fact, I would have been one of the last people to know had Joan been killed, because nowhere in her paperwork or emergency contact information had Joan dared to list my name.

Whenever I hear Joan recount the events of that day, I relive it and realize all over again how devastated I would have been had she been killed. I also think of the partners of service members injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are unable to get any support from the military and they must be careful about the amount of support they offer to their closeted service member loved ones.

The events of September 11th caused us to stop and reassess exactly what was most important in our lives. During that process, we realized that this discriminatory law was causing us to make a much bigger sacrifice than either of us had ever admitted.

Eight months later, in June 2002, Joan retired from the U.S. Navy, and I retired from the Library of Congress. If it wasn’t for DADT, we might both still be serving in our respective positions.

Lynne Kennedy

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. John S. McCain, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Member, Senate Armed Services Committee




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Open Letter to Brian and Maggie: What About the Real Lives of LGBTs?

Dear Brian and Maggie,

I watched the recent video of Brian's discussion with Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign and was left wishing that Brian had devoted more time to discussing the practical and real impact of marriage restrictions on gays and lesbians.

Both of you have spoken at length about your normative vision of ideal marital and child-rearing policies, as if we were deciding such policies in a vacuum.  We all know where you stand on the policy questions.

But you've never really addressed what should happen to existing gay and lesbian families.  See, your normative argument about how things should be ignores the practical lived experience of legally-married same-sex couples and of LGBT parents raising biological and adopted children.

And this omission, I believe, lies at the root of your public-relations difficulties.  So what can you do about it?

Well, you would go a long way toward building good will with the LGBT community if you would propose a meaningful alternative legal arrangement to govern their lives and families.  You oppose civil unions, domestic partnerships, and similar state-sponsored arrangements.  Are there any arrangements that you favor?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

And while you may not think that NOM should be in the business of offering alternatives, by treating marriage and the incidents of marriage as a zero-sum game, you practically beg for gays and lesbians to call you “bigots”–because you are lobbying for a restriction of their rights while refusing to offer up anything that's relevant to their actual lives.

Granted, Maggie has in the past suggested that LGBT couples could obtain the legal incidents of marriage through private contracts, wills, and similar personal legal documents.  But what about those incidents of marriage that can't be contracted into?  What about, for example, federal or state marital exemptions from gift tax or estate tax?  What about the spousal testimonial privilege?  There are no legal documents that can bestow these (and other) non-contractual legal benefits onto private individuals, absent state licensure or intervention.

In other words, benefits like these only attach to a “marriage.”  Should LGBT couples not have these benefits?  If they should, then how should they get them?  And would you lobby for the necessary legal changes?  If they shouldn't, why not?

Moreover, even if, arguendo, all of the benefits of marriage could be obtained through private contract, the average couple cannot afford the thousands of dollars needed to acquire the limited protection offered by, for example, a will or a power of attorney–both of which, legally speaking, are rather poor substitutes for marriage, as both are subject to facial legal challenges, whereas intestate succession and spousal power of attorney are conferred by law and can only be denied if the entire marriage is nullified.  Why should LGBT couples alone be required to bear this legal risk at a prohibitive cost?

By failing to offer a meaningful, viable alternative, you leave your critics with no choice but to question your motives.  I understand that being called a “bigot” offers you ample opportunity to play the victim card and to ply for attention and donations in the short term, but it's a remarkably short-sighted strategy.  You can only cry “wolf” so many times.  People will eventually tire of the hysterics.

So permit me to ask Rick's question one more time:  In light of the reality that several states have issued valid, legal marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and in light of the reality that many states permit LGBT couples and individuals to raise biological or adopted children, what do you propose?  Should we void or nullify all legal same-sex marriages?  Should we outlaw LGBTs from having biological children?  Should we outlaw LGBT adoption, whether as primary parent or as second parent?  Should we remove children from LGBT homes?

I invite you to clarify your position on this matter.

Regards,

JTW

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright