When President Barack Obama announced May 9th on ABC News to Robin Roberts that he supported same sex marriages, I could not help but think about so many of my friends who were discharged dishonorably from the military for being gay. I served two tours of duty in South Korea in the Army as a Communications Specialist from 1982-1983 and from 1984-1985. I had a Secret military clearance.
Due to me hanging out with many gay soldiers, I was constantly questioned by fellow soldiers and officers about my sexuality. Due to me signing my military contract and specifying that I had never engaged in “homosexual activities,” I had to deny my status for four long years. Coming out was not an option.
One of my gay friends was kicked out of the military after serving in the military nearly fifteen years. He was allowed to dress up when he danced at the local recreation centers on base, and he had feminine qualities that could not be masked. The soldiers really seemed to enjoy the on-stage performances. Once he and I was discussing how unfair it was to be discriminated against for being gay, while doing our jobs in a stellar way, and we decided to challenge the system.
Harvey (my gay friend) had a “relationship” with one of the younger male soldiers in his command. The guy bribed him, and insisted on Harvey paying him whenever he asked for money. Harvey stopped paying the soldier, and the soldier reported him to his commanders. Harvey was kicked out of the military, and the soldier was not punished because he alleged that Harvey forced him while drunk to have sex. It was then that I decided to challenge the system too.
I dressed up in semi-drag one day, and went to the clubs. Many solders saw me, and reported me. However, there was no military regulations and laws against me “dressing up”, so they tried to kick me out for other reasons. They tried to discharge me dishonorably for “unsatisfactory job performance”. This did not work because my military leaders had recently wrote outstanding letters of commendation on the outstanding job I had done as a Battalion Personnel Actions Specialist. Even my company commander had recently recommended that I re-enlist in the Army. They then tried to discharge me for homosexuality, but they could not prove this because no soldier would come forth to validate this.
Finally, they tried to discharge me dishonorably for “patterns of misconduct”. My commander persuaded many of his high-ranking peers to allege that they saw me acting unethical and immoral on various occasions off-duty. It was October 1985, and I had two months left before I was scheduled to be discharged anyway at the end of my four years. After we went through many military legal channels, they opted to give me a honorable discharge based on my outstanding record if I would agree to just leave the military with a honorable discharge, and not ever try to re-enlist. I agreed so that I would not lose my military benefits.
Those last two weeks of military service was very difficult for me before my discharge. A military intelligence officer was planted in the gym showers one day. I went to take a shower, and observed him staring at me. I did not return his manipulation, and finished my shower quickly. Later that day, I saw him working in the office of the battalion commander who was trying to kick me out.
After my final two weeks in the Army came to and end in November 1985, I boarded the 747, and was so grateful that I was coming home with a honorable discharge, and four years worth of memories that will last me a lifetime. My honorable discharge allows me access to many military benefits that have been a safety net for me since 1986. Now twenty-five years later, gays can now serve openly in the military after Obama repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy, and Obama is the first sitting president to support same-sex marriages. God Bless the U.S.A.