Gay Military Service
It's fair to say that gays have served in the military for thousands of years. Prior to WWII, being gay was considered to be a psychopathology. This was a hold over from late nineteenth century psychiatric conjectures. How exactly to classify this disorder was always a question; it didn't really fit into any of the major classifications.
The fear was that a person in the military with this condition, like other serious disorders, was likely to have a mental breakdown under the stress of combat, thus rendering him ineffective as a soldier, sailor, marine or airman.
Over seven million men served in WWII. Local draft boards across the nation made many of these selections. If they could, they would rather pick single men or, if married, those without children. With scarce resources, the single fellow who might act a bit queer seemed better than the guy with a family. As long as he didn't show up at the induction center wearing a dress, he was processed into the service like anyone else.
This bending of the rules was something few chose to notice. Who cared what the fellow might otherwise be like as long as he could get your leg to stop bleeding? After the war, people finally admitted that gays served, and in disproportionate numbers. Single men got called up first we recall. Some got to wondering, where were the military psychiatric wards full of gays with the mental breakdowns predicted? Well, there weren't any. Gays proudly served their country as well and as honorably as anyone.
Still, prejudice prevailed, then Korea happened. "You seem a bit odd, my boy, but you say you want to go to Pusan, Inchon or pork chop hill? Well, then, step right this way and sign these papers. We'll get you there right away." We recall Jamie Farr's portrayal of Klinger on M*A*S*H. Even wearing a dress didn't get him a section 8 discharge. No one is turned away when the job is important.
Prejudice again, then came Vietnam. I flew RF-4C reconnaissance missions into hostile territory from Udorn AB, Thailand. Sortie requirements came to us each day from MAC-V, Saigon. Were any of the crew members gay? Don't know. Don't care. If someone will fly at 2,000 feet down the shipping piers along Haiphong harbor at night with 12 million candle power flash cartridges lighting his path every 1.2 seconds, and wings straight and level so the cameras remain pointed at that 150 x 150 foot patch on the ground that is the target, and anti-aircraft fire lighting the sky as the red tracers arc ever closer, then let him go do it. Who would send a capable airman like this home leaving more slots to fill in for the rest of us? We'd be the "crazy" ones in that case not him.
Now we find the latest Pew poll shows those in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military lead those who are opposed by nearly a 2-1 margin. HR 1059, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would replace "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, picked up a few more sponsors this past week bringing the total to 110.
Let's get our policy in line with the reality of gay service and support the passage of this legislation.