The recent debate over the role of gays and lesbians in the military brings to mind Bob, a classmate of mine in college. Bob and I were close friends until I heard that he was (in the ugly terminology of the day) “queer.” As soon as I got the news, I began treating him like everybody else did in our all-male dormitory. I gave him the cold shoulder. To this day I feel ashamed of that behavior.
While I have great respect for our military, I’ve always wondered why we as a nation deny gays and lesbians the right to openly serve their country. I’ve heard the term “a detriment to morale,” but have always wondered exactly what that terminology entailed.
During World War II the U.S. reluctantly allowed Japanese-Americans to participate in combat, yet the 100th Army Battalion (the so-called Nisei Battalion) became the most highly decorated unit of the war. Subsequent wars have proved that bravery isn’t a matter of race, color or nationality, or, in these days of women flying combat missions, that even gender isn’t a factor.
I understand that 23 of the 26 member nations of NATO allow gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. I’m wondering why U.S. policy should be any different. When it comes to this issue what are we as a nation afraid of? I thought we were the land of the free and the home of the brave.