The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

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.
 
Dudes of War cover 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!

 

Comments

Thank you sir for telling it like it is and putting away myths that weaken our country and betray our best selves and the values that thousands if not millions of brave women and men have given their lives for. I look forward to reading your books. I have a nephew serving in Afghanistan and want to understand more about what he is dealing with, not mention what we as a country are asking of men and women we send into harm's way. Again, thanks and thank you for your service to our country.

DADT is an insult to the professional men and women in the military.....

Chock up one service member who does not think that repealing DADT was advisable. Now the military can start processing out the people who don't think "right" about homosexuality. Also we can all look forward to dozens of hours of "sensitivity" training crammed down our throats. I can't wait for the cases of a heterosexual claiming sexual harassment by a gay service member while the gay then puts an equal opportunity/homophobe charge against the straight member. Won't pitting those two policies against each other be the bomb for the units having to deal with it? Of course, unlike in the office at home, there is no escape, not the berthings, not the latrines, not the showers. You can't even quit except for that admistrative separation for not thinking "right." Then there is the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the services, especially the navy, 20 years ago to convert berthings, showers, etc to accomodate women. Why not just throw all the boys and girls together and let them all be 19 year old grown-ups? It would save the government a big chunk of change. Maybe they can put the savings towards saving the Tricare retirement benefit?

Regardless of the answer to any of these questions, there is at least one clear answer: the Sandbox can no longer claim to be an apolitical forum.

Joe-

I have no problem with your opinion on why you don't support the repeal of DADT, that's fine. But I think you go way off target with your shot at The Sandbox, when you claim that it is biased and not apolitical. The Sandbox isn't writing these posts -- we are. We as contributors come from the left, right, and center. The Sandbox serves only as an outlet for our opinions as soldiers, military family members, etc, who hold a wide range of opinions on all subjects -- including DADT.

We in the military are hyper political in many ways, and these opinions come out in our writing. So feel free to blame me for my political opinion on DADT repeal, but don't smear the Sandbox because they posted something I wrote that you don't agree with.

Ben
Author of "The Change"

I agree with Ben 100%. It is way past time for the repeal of DADT. If we have people leave the military because they can not work next to a gay person then the military will be better because of it.

Ben-

I will start by telling a few things about myself. I am in a close knit military family although not in the service myself. I have had several friends, co-workers, and family members who are homosexual. I am a happily married, working, heterosexual, college student. After stating that, I can honestly say that I agree that the repeal of DADT will certainly benefit the military and the United States. I feel a soldier should not have to hide who he or she really is. The military should be a reflection of the country, society, and families that it has sworn to protect. This is what our troops face when outside the military realm. Regardless of one's personal preference on that subject, acceptance should still be practiced. This repeal, in many ways, brings us closer to a more tolerant and just union. Thank you for supporting "The Change".

Troy

Ben,

It is great to hear such a comment coming from a soldier. I have had this conversation with many of my friends (some military and some not) and the vast majority say they would be outraged if the DADT is repealed. When I ask why should it make a difference or not if you know someones sexuality, does it make them any less of a soldier? I never get a straight answer, they always just say: "I have no problem with their sexuality, I just wouldnt want to know." If they have no problem with it, then they shouldnt have a problem with them being open about it.

I have one question for you, Ben (I know it will probably a huge estimate): What do you think the percentage of soldiers that support the repeal of DADT is?

I am going to agree with you. My wife and I have friends who are homosexual. I feel if they ever decided to join the military then they should be able to. Does it really make a difference? I do not think so. They are supposed to be there for the same reason. I do not think it is going to weaken our country and army. What is weakening our military is the stubbornness. Times have changed and so should the attitude..

I had never given much thought to the DADT policy until I found it was being repealed. Childishly, at first, I thought this was a horrible idea and had pictures of stereotypical homosexuals parading around with their guns in the air. After all of about five minutes of this juvenile thinking, the basics sank in.
Soldiers are away from home for years at a time in military deployments in which everything bout their lives changes. I cannot speak from experience and would like to note that before continuing to avoid offending any veterans. When I think about a soldier being overseas, I imagine a new climate, a new culture, new surroundings, and mostly new people. Having most comforts pulled away from them, our soldiers deserve the right to be who they are, in most cases a hero.
I would like to think that members of the armed forces could respect the constitution of the country they dearly love. “…all men are created equal.” A straight man being hit on by a homosexual man is no different than a woman being hit on by a man. They are in a place and time that requires enormous amounts of respect, and shouldn’t be any more offended by either situation. There should be some second thoughts by any soldier that wouldn’t watch one of his brothers’ back because of his sexual orientation. That homosexual soldier is probably willing to risk his life to save yours, don’t deny him the same courtesy based on outlandish and ancient stereotypes.

i have 2 sons who were in the military one in the army(SGT 8 years 1tour in Kosovo,2 tours Iraq,the rest in Germany) 1 in the Marines(1 tour Iraq) and they have no problem with gays in the military! and neither do my wife and my other 2 non military sons.

Ben, I agree with you completely. I think that DADT should be repealed. I think that our military members should be able to get over the fact that a fellow solider is gay. I believe that soldiers should be able to be comfortable and express who they are.

Ben,
I really enjoyed reading this article and your insight about the situation. I believe that if a man or women is willing to serve for our country their sexual preference should not have a thing to do with it. I believe that we have overcame way to much to even have these type of discussions. If any man or women is willing to dedicate their life to serving this nation we should in no way have the right to judge them on their sexual preferences! I appreciated you sharing your own personal story with us about your fellow comrade that was gay that saved your life. That is amazing to here and I commend him for his bravery!!
GOD BLESS,
Jennifer

I completely respect and understand your opinions. The last thing the people of the UNITED States of America need to be worrying about is whether or not members of the military are gay. Instead, worry about the things that matter, the things that are significant. People are people, it's time to see past differrences and focus on what matters.

I thought that you had a really good point. I don't understand why people are so afraid for homosexuals to fight in combat. I feel like if they want to go over and fight for our country then why not let them. They are people too.

I couldn’t agree more with your article! I don’t believe sexual preference should have anything to do with the military or anything else. I was in the military very briefly and I know the bonds soldiers can have between them. I believe if soldiers were openly gay in the military people would realize it’s not worth the argument.
Geoff

Ben

In reading your blog, I couldn't agree with you more. I never could understand how others were able to say that DADT would help our country. We can't change the color or our skin no more than we can change our sexuality. I feel we should admire and honor ALL individuals that have signed up to serve and fight for our country.
You are all the brave ones!

I was active duty for 12.5 years until being medically discharged in 2005. My first MOS was in Combat Arms and the way I look at it is this. I may not agree with a fellow soldier's choices, no matter what those choices may be. My only concern is that they are well trained and that they have my back. I know that there are going to be issues on both sides of this, but in the end I think that our service members would rather have a well trained, trustworthy soldier standing next to them, no matter what their sexual orientation might be.

I completely agree with this! It shouldn't matter what a person's sexual prefence is. I mean really it doesn't affect their job performace then whats the matter. I don't understand why in the world people would think it to be ok that someone put their life on the line in order to protect your freedom but they don't have the right to be who they are because you are uncomfortable with it? People should be free to be who they are I mean afterall they are risking their lives for freedom!

I think there is much more to consider here, it is not just the choice of someone being gay. While I believe that a Soldier can perform all duties gay or not, I believe that the Army does not tolerate sodomy between any combination of the sexes; not between two men, two women or a man and a woman. So what does this entail? For what reasons was there an Article written just for this matter? Just curious Ben, what is your take on the UCMJ Article 125 and if you think it should change, and what affect that will have on the Military?

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