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TEAM PLAYERS

By Denny Meyer
Editor of Gay Military Signal
Public Affairs Officer of AVER


As Public Affairs Officer for American Veterans for Equal Rights, I often get called upon to give speeches and to answer questions on live talk radio programs around the country when the subject of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" comes up. A while back I got a phone call at 9 AM one morning asking if I'd be willing to be on the Sue Wylie radio program live statewide in Kentucky. "Sure, no problem, when is the show?"  I said. "Half an hour from now at 9:30 AM," I was told. "Aha," I thought, "someone canceled at the last minute."

After a pot of coffee, I went on the air by phone, wired two ways as it were. For the first ten minutes, I talked about the history of integration in our American Armed Forces. In 1948, President Harry Truman integrated Black Americans into our military by executive order. At that time bigots told him that they didn't want to shower with nor take orders from Black people; they feared that Black servicemembers would rise through the ranks to positions of leadership. It took Colin Powell, who was born at about that time, some 40 years to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, at the Pentagon, leading all American forces. For over half a century, Black Americans have served honorably and bravely in all positions in our military; not to mention the courageous service of Black Americans since the Revolutionary War starting with Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton (who was both biracial and bisexual).

I next briefly spoke about President Clinton having integrated women into our armed forces in the 1990s. At that time, idiots told him that they would not be able to concentrate on the work at hand because they would be too distracted by the presence of females with whom they would have to work side by side. Since that time, women have served courageously in our military around the world including Iraq; not to mention the women who dressed as men and bravely battled on both sides during the Civil War.

Finally, I spoke about the current effort to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell law and allow Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual patriotic volunteers to serve openly in our armed forces. Today, American bigots say that they don't want to shower with nor take orders from Gay Americans. Of course, gay people have been serving bravely and honorably in our military since the Revolutionary War.

Then, the Call-Ins began and callers were invited to give their opinions. A male caller with a distinct and rich pure bluegrass accent said, "I don't think we should have blacks, nor women, nor 'ho-mo-sexuals' serving because they're all too much trouble!" I had a hunch and asked him, "You haven't served in the military have you?" "No," he said. I told him , "I didn't think so. You have to be a team player to have the privilege and honor of serving in America's armed forces. You have to be able to get along with and serve alongside all Americans; otherwise, you don't belong on the team proudly wearing our uniforms." Significantly, most callers in that mostly rural red state said that times have changed and they believed that gays should be able, now, to serve in our armed forces.

To complement red blooded American volunteers currently serving on active duty, recent surveys of combat veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq tours of duty have shown that most could not care less if the person serving alongside them is gay or not. Many said that they knew or suspected that some of their fellow servicemembers were gay.

Summarizing the opinion of many, a South Carolinian on his way back to Baghdad, whom I met in an airport waiting room, told me that he went on patrol everyday with those who he knew were gay and relied on them the same as he does with every other teammate. These young Americans have all volunteered and gone through the same tough training together, and become NCOs together; they've been sent to do a damn difficult job in the Middle East defending freedom. It's something they all believe in. How their teammates happen to love just doesn't matter to most of them. What matters is getting each other back home in one piece, period!

There are, of course, a few fuck-ups, who somehow make it into our fighting units, who don't like those of other races different from themselves, who think that women don't deserve any respect from them, or who have contempt for those of other religions than their own, and who think they have a right to feel superior to anyone who might be gay or in any way different; they very immaturely imagine themselves to be somehow special. These guys are obviously very dangerous and unreliable in a fighting unit. Their personal issues could result in mission failure, in the death or injury of American servicemembers. They are not team players. They clearly do not belong in the proud uniforms of America's armed forces.

Unit morale is everything in our uniquely integrated American armed forces. It's what makes us both an example to the world and a unified fighting force of men and women dedicated to getting the job done without the option of failure. American unit morale is a testament to our character as a nation and a people, as well as to our determination, during our training, to be the best. We are team players and proud of it.

Denny Meyer
former SFC, USAR

  2007  Gay Military Signal