Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach is the latest of a long line of honorable soldiers who may be discharged due to his sexual orientation, unless Air Force Secretary Michael Donley rejects the review board’s April recommendation. LTC Fehrenbach, who has been charged with damaging “good order and discipline,” has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia during the course of his eighteen-year career and has earned nine Air Medals, including one in 2003 for heroism under fire during an enemy ambush in Baghdad. Fehrenbach stands to lose the $50,000 in retirement pay and medical benefits he would have earned after twenty years of service.
The Flag and General Officers for the Military, which sent the President a letter signed by 1,000 retirees protesting any attempts to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, argues that allowing openly gay soldiers to serve would “harm morale, discipline, unit cohesion, as well as undermine recruitment and retention.” But the policy has led to the discharge of 13,000 soldiers (326 since Obama’s swearing-in), many of whom were deemed to have critical occupations such as interpreters and engineers.
Representative Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa), the first Iraq war veteran to be elected to Congress, argues the opposite. “I have full faith and confidence in our troops’ ability to continue to respect differences in our Army,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “The paratroopers I served with in Baghdad, the thing they cared about was whether you could get the job done and help us get home.” Murphy has recently sponsored the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which, if passed, would repeal DADT.
President Obama continues to publicly support the repeal of DADT, but has also said that he believes Congress should take the lead and repeal it through legislative means. The Senate Armed Forces Committee will hold its first hearing regarding DADT in the fall.
It’s time that people realized how old, tired, and hypocritical the arguments against repeal of DADT are. The idea that we should tolerate discrimination in our military, which is supposed to be made up of our finest citizens, because we fear our military will then be unable to work together is wrong. If President Truman had listened to such arguments, the military would still be segregated. As Rep. Murphy pointed out, in times of combat it really doesn’t matter whether you’re black, brown, female, Muslim, gay, or none of the above. What matters is your ability to do your job well and with dedication.
Arguments that allowing LGBTQ soldiers to openly serve in the military will harm overall “military readiness” also blindly ignores the problems DADT actually give the military. Not only are we losing capable LGBTQ soldiers, we are losing soldiers who can assist us in translating critical languages such as Arabic and Farsi. At a time when we are refocusing on the war in Afghanistan while continuing to maintain a presence in Iraq, all while keeping an eye on North Korea and Iran, it seems ridiculous and short-sighted to continue to discharge LGBTQ soldiers who have otherwise served us well and advertise to LGBTQ individuals who might otherwise enlist that they are not allowed. The point is this: we need every qualified individual we can get, and whether they are straight or not doesn’t change their qualifications or their records.
The time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now. The world’s political realities demand it, the principle of equality demands it, and our national environment has never been in a better place for it. According to a Gallup poll released in June, the majority of church-goers, conservatives, and Republicans support the repeal of DADT. To take action and get your voice heard on DADT, go here. Make sure that when the Senate Armed Forces Committee finally discusses this issue, they know exactly how we feel.