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Overdue to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Each branch of the military has a similar oath every service man or woman is required to take. They swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and allegiance to the country and Constitution.
Interestingly, regardless of the branch of service, the oath ends with "So help me God." Of course, they can't ask which God because the constitution protects our right to religious freedom so we don't have to tell. But whether it is the USA's traditional Judeo-Christian God, the Muslim community's Allah, Buddha or some pantheistic God – everyone swears to defend our rights – so help me God – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
Sadly servicemen and women while serving their country have had to fight not just outside enemies but perhaps the evilest, most destructive domestic enemy threatening our country – a patriarchal society's need to discriminate by race, gender, ethnicity and, with the current "Don't ask. Don't tell" policy, sexual orientation.
Despite the fact that they were not granted citizenship until 1924, Native Americans have served in all branches of the military. 12,000 Native Americans served in WWI, 44,000 served in WW II, and 42,000 (over 90 percent of which were volunteers) served in Vietnam. Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita of all the ethnic groups in America. Despite their commitment to service the plight of these First Americans remains perilous plagued by poverty, sub-standard living conditions, and inequality both on and off the reservations.
The role of women in the military remains controversial. There are over 32,000 women in the U.S. military, comprising about 15 percent of the total U.S. Armed Forces. No longer limited to traditional roles like nursing and clerical duties, women have begun to play a more prominent role in contemporary armed forces. Although they are in many high profile positions, service women are still plagued with biases regarding the physical and mental differences of the two sexes, the effect of the presence of the opposite sex on the battlefield, and the traditional view of soldiers as male.
Since the arrival of the first black slaves in 1619, African Americans have served in the military fighting in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I & II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the current War in Iraq. Even while serving in segregated units they defended the values and liberties enshrined in the Constitution while their families live in poverty, face discrimination and suffer the continuing ravages of racism at home even today.
One has to applaud the patriotism that causes so many to be prepared to give life and limb in service to our country and protection of our rights. But we must also condemn the economic and social disparity denying these basic rights to all Americans.
They are White, Black, Latino, Male, Female, straight and yes, some of them are gay Americans.
Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva was the first American wounded in the war in Iraq. On March 21, 2003, he was traveling in Iraq in a convoy to Basra with his battalion when he stepped on a landmine, breaking his right arm and damaging his leg so badly that it needed to be amputated. Staff Sgt. Alva was awarded a Purple Heart and received a medical discharge from the military.
Under this country's "Don't ask. Don't tell" policy, Eric Alva like so many other LGBT service people had to live a secret life, unable to give 100 percent because he had to deny a part of himself.
He could not tell his fellow soldiers about that special someone back home to be notified if he were hurt. He could not ask anyone to get his lover on the phone just to tell them he was alright. In good times, he could not share stories and photos about his life back home. And, had he made the ultimate sacrifice, no military representative would have come to his lover's door bearing the sad news of his demise.
They couldn't ask and he couldn't tell but he was asked everyday to put his life on the line without question to defend the Constitution and country that denied him his civil rights.
Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that he supports the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving in the military because homosexual acts "are immoral," and compared it to an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member.
Like gays in the locker rooms of professional sports, the disruption of a combat units esprit de corps is cited as another reason for this ludicrous policy. It makes about as much sense as prohibiting, Native Americans, African Americans, and women from front-line combat situations. The arguments are the same only the names have been changed.
Bottom line it's all about the "D" (dick or domination take your pick) and the need for straight white men to defend their masculinity, superiority and domination by disparaging, discriminating and denying the other, the different – we the people – the rights and equalities promised in the Constitution.
So it's time to end "Don't ask. Don't tell". Don't ask our service men and women to be less than they can be, by hiding the most important part of their identity. Don't tell our service men and women that it is ok to lose life and limb defending constitutional rights and protections denied to their families. As a nation let's take an oath to end this discriminatory policy today – so help us God.



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