Wounded gay Texas Marine: Amos ‘spit on me,’ and I wish Obama would ‘fire his ass on the spot’

Eric Alva

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay wounded veteran from San Antonio, today responded to Marine Commandant Gen. James F Amos’ comments on Tuesday suggesting that repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” would lead to casualties.  Alva became the first casualty of the Iraq war in 2003 when his leg was blown off by a land mine. From The Advocate:

“He pretty much spit on me, my Purple Heart, and my 13 years of service,” Alva said of Amos Wednesday as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a stand-alone repeal bill — one sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy, a fellow Iraq War veteran who lost his reelection bid in November. “I would definitely ask Amos for a meeting to explain his comments, and I’d bring my Purple Heart with me.”

Responding to questions from reporters at the Pentagon, Amos, who was appointed to the position by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in June but is at odds with the White House on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Tuesday: “Mistakes and inattention or distractions costs Marines lives. … I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.” (Read Stars and Stripes coverage of the remarks here.)

Alva, 39, called Amos’s behavior insubordinate and reminiscent of the conduct of another four-star general: Stanley A. McChrystal, who resigned under pressure in June after Rolling Stone published remarks attributed to Gen. McChrystal and his aides critical of senior administration officials.

“I wish Obama would invite [Amos] to the White House and fire his ass on the spot,” Alva told The Advocate.

—  John Wright

Pentagon: No gays were discharged in past month

LISA LEFF | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — No U.S. service members have been discharged for being openly gay in the month since the Defense Department adopted new rules surrounding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday, Nov. 22.

Under new rules adopted Oct. 21, Defense Secretary Robert Gates put authority for signing off on dismissals in the hands of the three service secretaries.

Before then, any commanding officer at a rank equivalent to a one-star general could discharge gay enlisted personnel under the 1993 law that prohibits gays from serving openly in uniform.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told The Associated Press that no discharges have been approved since Oct. 21.

Smith did not know if the absence of recent discharges was related to the new separation procedures. The Pentagon has not compiled monthly discharge figures for any other months this year, she said.

Based on historical trends, however, it appears the change, as well as moves by Gates and President Barack Obama to get Congress to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” has caused discharge rates to fall dramatically, said Aaron Belkin, executive director of Palm Center, a pro-repeal think tank based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Statistically, it would be extremely unlikely if we had a month in which there were no gay discharges,” Belkin said, noting that 428 gay and lesbian service members were honorably discharged under the ban in 2009.

A month without “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharges was welcome news, said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Still, the organization continues to hear daily from military personnel who are under investigation for being gay and face the possibility of being fired.

“We have clients who are still under investigation, who are still having to respond, and in fact we have a client under investigation right now under suicide watch,” Sarvis said. “So ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has not gone away.”

Gates announced the change requiring the top civilian officials with the armed forces to personally approve “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharges after a federal judge in California ordered the military to immediately stop enforcing its ban on openly gay troops, declaring the 17-year-old policy unconstitutional.

An appeals court subsequently froze the judge’s order until it could consider the broader constitutional issues in the case.

Putting responsibility for firing gay personnel in the hands of the three service secretaries was not designed to slow the rate of discharges, Gates said at the time. Rather, concentrating that authority was meant to ensure uniformity and care in enforcement at a time of legal uncertainty, he said in a memo outlining the new rules.

Gates since has urged the Senate to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” before a new Congress takes office in January. He said this week he plans to release a monthslong study on how lifting the gay service ban would affect the armed forces and could be carried out on Nov. 30.

—  John Wright