Best Defense

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is hurting the war effort, it is wasteful — and it is wrong

Here’s a piece by John “Eating Soup” Nagl, one of my bosses at CNAS. Even if he weren’t my boss, I’d agree with this comment. I can hear some of you grumbling, “Oh, no, once you have openly gay soldiers, next thing you know, the Republican party will be running witches for the Senate!” I ...

yalegala.org/Events/2010/KnightsOutNYC
yalegala.org/Events/2010/KnightsOutNYC

Here’s a piece by John “Eating Soup” Nagl, one of my bosses at CNAS. Even if he weren’t my boss, I’d agree with this comment.

I can hear some of you grumbling, “Oh, no, once you have openly gay soldiers, next thing you know, the Republican party will be running witches for the Senate!” I got news for you.

By Lt. Col. John Nagl (U.S. Army, ret.)
Best Defense guest columnist

This New York Times piece is by my former student Jonathan Hopkins, who graduated fourth in his West Point class, commanded two companies, served three combat tours and earned three Bronze Stars (including one for valor) — and recently was expelled from the Army for being homosexual. Jonathan’s personal story is compelling; of particular relevance is the fact that his infantry brigade kept him on duty for more than a year after discovering that he was gay, during the administrative process of removing him from service:

“Amid all of that, the unit continued to function and I continued to be respected for the work I did. Many, from both companies I commanded, approached me to say that they didn’t care if I was gay — they thought I was one of the best commanders they’d ever had. And unbeknownst to me, many had guessed I was probably gay all along. Most didn’t care about my sexuality. I was accepted by most of them, as was my boyfriend, and I had never been happier in the military. Nothing collapsed, no one stopped talking to me, the Earth spun on its axis, and the unit prepared to fight another day.”

He speaks for his peers when he says:

“There are parts of my story in the lives of all of the gay service members who continue to serve in our military — and there are 65,000, according to the Urban Institute. Their commitment is immense. So dedicated are they to service that they eschew the rights that every other soldier enjoys. Their road is more difficult than most people realize, and we reward their exceptionally dedicated and selfless service by undermining their ability to live a happy, honest, and fulfilling life – all of which would actually make them even better soldiers.”

Jonathan is the third combat veteran I personally know who has left the Army under the terms of DADT. Collectively, they represent almost a decade of combat experience, a big handful of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars, service as aide-de-camps to general officers and as platoon leaders and company commanders in combat, and the investment of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. They have offered blood, sweat, and tears in defense of a nation that discriminates against them for no good reason.

This policy must end.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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