As a prior navy corpsmen and dedicated service member for 10 years, the below article simply had me angry at first. I lost my navy career because I would not disclose a military members name that I was romantically involved with at the time, thus putting his career in jeopardy as well as my own. I was court martialed and reduced in rank from E-5 to E-4 and served out my final days on active duty in the brig. On December 17, 2007 I left my military career behind and often wondered what would have happened if I simply had stated the persons name and rank.
You may be asking yourself what’s so important about this article and why is it even important now? Your out, living your life now! I know what it feels like to be on active duty, and not be able to show, admit or even hint to your same sex relationship, or how you feel for someone of the same sex. Though many of my fellow sailors knew about my sexuality, yet turned a blind eye to it due to this policy so you see it’s important we send a message. I am curious to see what many of think.
I would like to thank the Omaha World-Herald and Military.com for posting this article.
Stephen Vossler’s best buddy is a gay man he met in the unlikeliest of places — the U.S. Army.
That friendship transformed Vossler, a Friend, Neb., native who never met an openly gay person in high school and didn’t blink when his friends used a gay slur.
He became a Soldier increasingly bothered by the military “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as he watched colleagues, including a one-time roommate, get booted for their sexual orientation.
He became a veteran who Thursday will stand before an audience at the Omaha Public Library and argue for an end to the 16-year-old policy. He’ll hold himself up as living proof that the policy is obsolete.
“The underlying idea of (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) is that straight white kids from rural Nebraska are somehow not going to be able to serve with gay people … and that’s just not the case,” he said.
Supporters of the current ban argue that lifting it would cause the military to lose service members who wouldn’t want to serve with openly gay colleagues and cause unnecessary tension.
The panel discussion, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the W. Dale Clark Library, is sponsored by two gay rights groups promoting a congressional bill that would end the military policy that openly gay servicemen and women can’t serve.
The gatherings next week in Omaha and Lincoln are two stops on a national tour intended to keep pressure on President Barack Obama to change a policy he repeatedly said he would end while on the campaign trail.
The 1993 policy, a compromise between then-President Bill Clinton and military leaders, eliminated the military practice of asking military recruits if they were gay, then barring those who answered yes.
It left in place a ban on being openly gay in the military, creating a situation where a gay man or lesbian can serve if they never tell anyone they are gay and are never discovered to be in a same-sex relationship.
Nationally, more than 13,000 service members have been discharged from the military under the policy. That number includes at least 800 skilled specialists such as doctors, engineers and pilots, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group that has studied the discharges. It also includes at least 89 Arabic linguists.
Without a ban, though, openly gay personnel and those who disapprove of homosexuality would live and sleep together on cramped submarines and in crowded barracks.
“It’s tantamount to saying that men should be living in close quarters with no privacy with women,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Michigan-based Center for Military Readiness, which supports the ban. “It’s pretending that sexuality doesn’t matter. It does matter.”
In five straight surveys done by the Military Times newspaper, nearly 60 percent of the active-duty respondents have said they oppose allowing openly gay people into the military.
U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., has supported the policy. In 2007, Nelson told The World-Herald that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is working. “At this point in time, I don’t know why you would change it,” Nelson said then.
Calls to Nelson’s office weren’t returned this week. Neither were calls to the offices of U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.
John Hibbing, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said that eventually, the policy is doomed.
Students in his classes represent a new generation of Americans who each have a relative, close friend or classmate who is openly gay, he said. These students are almost unanimously supportive of expanded rights for gay people, including the ability to serve openly in the military.
“This is a thing that the march of time is going to topple whether you like it or not,” Hibbing said.
Vossler wants to see that happen sooner rather than later. He left the Army in 2006 after serving as a Korean language linguist and leading technical reconnaissance teams.
Soon after he enlisted, Vossler met Jarrod Chlapowski, a fellow linguist. They competed to see who could do the most push ups and bonded over “nerdy science stuff,” Vossler said. It was months before another Soldier told Vossler that Chlapowski was gay.
Vossler watched as Chlapowski was accepted by most of the men in their original unit, including an evangelical Christian from Iowa. He watched as some of the company’s leaders ignored the common knowledge of Chlapowski’s homosexuality.
And he watched when, after a transfer, Chlapowski went back into the closet because he was concerned someone in his new unit would out him. Stationed in Fort Lewis, Wash., Chlapowski sneaked away to Seattle on weekends, where he was secretly dating a man.
“He would come back and he’d be telling me stories about what he and his girlfriend did because we were standing around other guys in the unit,” Vossler said. “I think he realized that every time he moved up the ranks … he was going to have to hide.”
Chlapowski left the military in 2005 and is now a leader in Service members United, a group of gay veterans advocating for the policy to end.
This summer, between semesters at UNL where he’s a student, Vossler is working for his buddy in Washington, D.C. They head to the offices of Republican and Democratic congressmen and argue that the policy costs the military talented Soldiers and millions of dollars in unnecessary discharges.
It’s a long way from where Vossler started in Friend.
“In retrospect, I don’t know what the heck I was thinking,” Vossler said of his initial attitude that the policy was just fine.
“I can’t imagine going through my military career and never holding hands with a girl, or going on a date, or expressing my heterosexuality in any way. Why should anybody have to do that? It’s mysteriously out of touch with logic.”