If you haven’t seen it yet, Senator Brian Schatz has introduced a bill that would ensure that gay veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation would receive the designation of “honorable” on their discharge records. There are probably a lot of people thinking to themselves that this law isn’t needed, that veterans who received a “general”, "other than honorable", or "dishonorable" discharge due to their sexual orientation can simply apply through an administrative process to change their discharge designation. However, having met gay veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation, and who have still not been able to change their discharge designation to honorable, I assure you that bureaucratic administrative processes are anything but simple and efficient. These men and women who served our country honorably, deserve to have their service recognized as such.
Beyond the fact that these men and women who received less than an honorable discharge because of their sexual orientation are barred from receiving certain benefits that they have earned, we as the veteran community, and those of us who care about our military, have an important reason to support Senator Schatz’s bill: Our community and the military has historically broken down cultural barriers. The military was the first institution in America to allow African Americans to have official leadership roles. The military was the first institution in America to desegregate. The military was the second institution in America (besides women suffragist movements and the Red Cross) to have a woman obtain a “C-level” position. The military has been an institution to breakdown class and social barriers and allow individuals to rise on their merit.
Are all these examples idyllic? Sure. Did the military and many veterans push back against many of these exemplars? You bet. But what is important is that the institution stayed the course. What is important is that the military was used to highlight why the rest of American society could and should change. What is important is that our veteran community is still one of the most diverse groups in America, and we are stronger because of that.
I’m proud of my service to our country. I’m proud of our military. I’m proud of our history. While I wish the removal of prejudice was easy, I know that it wont be. Regardless of how anyone feels about gays, I hope that our community supports a bill that will honor the men and women for their honorable service and allow them to obtain the benefits that they have earned.