As ban on open gays and lesbians in the military ends, active-duty military personnel come out, some who were discharged consider re-enlisting
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
As the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” became final this week, some active-duty service members came out while some who were discharged under the policy made plans to re-enlist.
Dallas celebrated the repeal with a reception at Resource Center Dallas during which
Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, presented his archive of photos, papers and other memorabilia to the Phil Johnson Library.
Among the papers was correspondence with senators and representatives about supporting the repeal effort. Also included was correspondence with the White House that concluded with Guy-Gainer’s invitation to the final repeal signing ceremony in July.
Guy-Gainer said that he almost missed the invitation, because he almost forgot to check his email one Monday night. When he did remember and checked the inbox, he realized that he had received an invitation to the repeal certification signing ceremony in Washington that Wednesday.
Guy-Gainer said he immediately cleared his schedule and made plans to attend.
Despite repeal of DADT, Guy-Gainer said, SLDN’s work is not over. Although gays and lesbians may now serve openly, those who are married will not receive 40 benefits that married heterosexual service members enjoy.
Those benefits include their partners having an identity card to get on base and using that card to shop in the PX or use the library.
Same-sex dependents will not be able to use the base attorneys to write wills and other legal papers.
Same-sex couples will not have the access to base housing that opposite-sex couples have, nor will they be eligible for subsistence payments to subsidize off-base housing. That money is offered to many heterosexual couples.
Dependents of heterosexuals also have access to full health care that same-sex partners of servicemen and women will not receive.
Across the country, a number of gays and lesbians who had been discharged under DADT started talking to recruiters Tuesday about re-enlisting, including Cully Johnson, one of the owners of Dallas Eagle.
Johnson was a captain and said he is consiering re-enlisting in the Air Force. He had an appointment with a recruiter to discuss the possibility on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Johnson said he was stationed in Germany for the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When Turkey refused to allow American planes to use its airspace, he said, he was responsible for finding alternate routes and bases that allowed the mission to happen.
After serving more than nine years, Johnson was dismissed from the military under DADT.
But like many who were dismissed, Johnson never “told.”
Another member of the Air Force asked him out on a date. When he turned the man down, that airman went to Johnson’s superior and reported him as being gay.
Johnson said there was no defense he could present. His attorney said that explaining the story of why he was turned in would just be seen as retaliation.
So Johnson was given an honorable discharge and he returned to Dallas while the closeted gay man who turned him in remained in the Air Force.
Johnson said he would like to finish his 20 years to take advantage of full military retirement benefits. Although he is talking to a recruiter, Johnson said that in addition to his business, he recently purchased a condo and has a new partner.
His partner was taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Johnson’s re-enlistment.
“We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” said his partner, who works for an employer that doesn’t offer nondiscrimination protection and asked not to be identified.
Because Johnson was an officer, there may not be an immediate slot for him in the Air Force. With President Barack Obama’s proposed drawdown of armed forces, many who want to re-enlist whose specialties have been filled will also have to wait for an opening.
Pepe Johnson had an appointment with a recruiter on Wednesday also. Before his DADT discharge, he had been named soldier of the year at Fort Sill and became a sergeant.
Today, the former Dallas resident, who still owns a house in Oak Cliff, works as a petroleum land man in West Virginia.
“I want to sit down with a recruiter and look at the options available to me,” Pepe Johnson said, adding that he holds no resentment against the Army for his 2003 dismissal.
“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a law created by Congress and imposed on the military,” he said. “The Army was an incredible experience for me.”
If he re-enters, Pepe Johnson said he would have to go through basic training again because of the length of time since he served. Then, he said, he’d like to enter officer candidate school.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.