THE CHANGE |
January 11, 2011
Name: MAJ Ben Tupper
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Benjamin Tupper is a long-time contributor to The Sandbox. His well-received first book was Greetings From Afghanistan: Send More Ammo. The following post is adapted from his recently-published second book, Dudes of War.
I hear a lot of talk about how allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military is asking too much of our servicemembers. According to many opponents of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the challenge of dealing with open homosexuality is a burden too great for the American fighting man and woman to bear.
I chuckle when I hear this argument of concern for the welfare of currently-serving military members. I wonder why these same people were silent when we went to war without enough body armor, or came home to underfunded veterans hospitals and shortages in mental health care resources for PTSD.
As a current member of the military, and as someone who served as an Infantry front line leader in Afghanistan, I can quickly think of dozens of burdens far worse than the possible awkwardness of serving with openly gay servicemembers.
I would happily trade the burden that is the terror of combat and the death of comrades, or the physical challenges of the Afghan cold and heat, or waiting weeks if not months for PTSD treatment from the VA, for this alleged “burden” of soldiering side by side with a homosexual.
Frankly, I take personal offense when I hear critics of repealing DADT say that it will hurt our fighting force, or hinder the ability to accomplish our mission. We are professional soldiers who go to war and are issued challenging and life-threatening missions on a daily basis. To think we can’t improvise, adapt, and overcome to the change of having our gay and lesbian soldiers come out of the closet is an insult to our long legacy of victory. I'm sure people feared the burdens of integrating women, and African Americans into the ranks, but we did this, and are a stronger, more unified fighting force because of it.
I know first hand that homosexual servicemembers are just as brave, smart, and committed to the mission as any of their straight comrades in arms. I owe my life to a closeted gay army soldier who, during an assault on a Taliban camp, was the only person in our unit to recognize that a squad of our soldiers was accidentally firing their weapons at my forward position. Multiple machine guns were chipping away at the rocks around me, until this gay soldier recognized what was happening and ran through the open to stop the friendly fire.
So given all this, it should be no surprise that when Don't Ask Don't tell comes up, and people ask me if I support gays serving openly in the military, even if it’s in front line combat units, my answer is simple: “Hell Yeah!”