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04/26/2010

Repeal in Defense Authorization Bill: A letter a day can take the flawed law away?

by Jeremy Hooper

I, Jeremy, have never served in the armed forces. Not gonna lie: I never even really considered it. My clinical pacifism, which has been known to set up halfway houses for unswatted flies so that they could reform their pesky ways, makes me suited to serve my country in other areas.

Though I have been denied my freedom in many other ways. And I will always work to support the right of anyone, be they LGBT or S, conservative Christian or atheist, smoker or non, Republican or Democrat, etc. or so on, to move through this journey called life, in this experiment that we call America, with the freedom that he or she is owed under this nation's governing documents. Plus I hold the highest degree of respect for those who can and do put their lives on the line to serve this country in a way that I never have, never forgetting that we live in a world with a reality still known as war, and NEVER, EVER neglecting to support the individuals who sign up to collectively defend this planet in ways that are unimaginable to most of us.

That dual support for unqualified civil liberties and our men and women in uniform is why I have signed this site on to the Servicemembers Legal SLDNDefense Network (SLDN) new effort to share the individual stories of bravery in the face of a cowardly policy. I encourage you to have a look, then vow to do your own tour of duty in this overwrought "culture war" battle:

SLDN Launches Online Campaign to Help Build Momentum for Repeal
"Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama" begins today
www.sldn.org/letters


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), today launched “Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama,” a new media campaign to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal DADT. Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal. To read today's letter visit: www.sldn.org/letters.

"This is a critical hour as we're very close to reaching the 15 votes needed to include repeal to the Defense Authorization bill," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "We are just two or three votes away and we urge the President to engage now and help us line up key votes still needed to get DADT repealed this year. By people sharing their personal stories on how this terrible law has impacted them, we can send a powerful message to the President and our own community as we build momentum going into this crucial vote."

By visiting www.sldn.org/letters, visitors will be able to read the daily letter and take action. Specific steps visitors can take include: sending a letter to their respective Members of Congress; sharing their own personal story of how DADT has impacted them; posting the daily letter on their Facebook and Twitter; and spreading the word that we're at a critical point in repeal.

Participating blogs (alphabetical order / list in formation):

www.AmericaBlog.com
www.AKAWilliam.com
www.BoxTurtleBulletin.com
www.GoodAsYou.org
www.LGBTPOV.com
www.Michael-in-Norfolk.blogspot.com
www.OpenLeft.com
www.PageOneQ.com
www.PamsHouseBlend.com
www.TheBilericoProject.com
www.Towleroad.com

Campaign microsite:

www.sldn.org/letters

SLDN Twitter:

www.twitter.com/FreedomToServe

Campaign hashtag:

#DADTstories

Campaign shortlink:

http://bit.ly/cLUsmp

SLDN Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Servicemembers-Legal-Defense-Network/19199821791?ref=ts

##

LETTER FOR MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2010:

“Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal. The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993. By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes! We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.

##

April 26, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

If you end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), I’d re-enlist the day you sign repeal into law.

For thirteen years, I served in the United States Air Force where I attained the rank of major before I was discharged under DADT.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee considers including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill, we’re very close -- just two or three votes -- to passing repeal in committee. I ask for you to voice your support to put us over the top.

I come from a family with a rich legacy of military service. My father is a West Point graduate who taught chemistry at the Air Force Academy, flew helicopters in Vietnam, and ultimately retired as a senior officer from the Air Force. One of my uncles retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Another uncle served in the Army in Korea.

Growing up, I didn't really know what civilians did, I just knew I would follow in my father's footsteps and become a military officer.

I joined Air Force ROTC in 1988 and was awarded a scholarship. I earned my jump wings in 1991. In 1992, I graduated from ROTC in the top 10% of all graduates nationwide. In 1993, I went on active duty, just as DADT was becoming a law.

Stationed in Oklahoma, I was named officer of the year for my unit of nearly 1,000 people. Later, I was one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia.

During my career, I deployed to the Middle East four times. In my last deployment, I led a team of nearly 200 men and women to operate and maintain the systems used to control the air space over Iraq. We came under daily mortar attacks, one of which struck one of my Airmen and also caused significant damage to our equipment. Towards the end of this deployment to Iraq, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force.

In the stress of a war zone, the Air Force authorized us to use our work email accounts for “personal or morale purposes” because private email accounts were blocked for security.

Shortly after I left Iraq -- during a routine search of my computer files -- someone found that my “morale” was supported by the person I loved -- a man.

The email -- our modern day letter home -- was forwarded to my commander.

I was relieved of my duties, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated.

In my discharge proceeding, several of my former troops wrote character reference letters for me, including one of my squadron commanders. Their letters expressed their respect for me as an officer, their hope to have me back on the job and their shock at how the Air Force was treating me.

Approximately a year after I was relieved of my duties, my Wing Commander recommended I be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, even though the Air Force was actively pursuing my discharge.

But instead, after 16 months, I was given a police escort off the base as if I were a common criminal or a threat to national security. The severance pay I received was half of what it would have been had I been separated for any other reason.

Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.

Mr. President, I want to serve. Please fulfill your promise to repeal DADT and give me that chance.

Thank you,

Major Mike Almy
United States Air Force

##

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (www.sldn.org) is a national, non-profit legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” A journalists’ guide is available
here.

This treaty will be written with the heart. Dare to share.

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