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View Article  Yuma, Arizona Mayor doesn't want limp wristed soldiers

from hrc comes a humbling story ....

The Yuma Mayor doesn't think limp wristed men don't belong in the military. The first casualty of the Iraq War speaks out ...

These hateful words are absolutely inconsistent with the unbending physical and mental courage that I encountered among all of the men and women with whom I served, whether gay or straight. Many members in my unit knew I was gay ? and this simple truth never once came in the way of our ability to do our job. It didn?t stop Navy corpsman Brian Alaniz from heroically coming to my aid after I stepped on a landmine, earning me the dubious distinction of being the first casualty in the Iraq War. Minutes later, he would become the second casualty of the war. Since then, we have stood by each other ? literally ? as we learned to walk again with our new prosthetic legs.

Because of my injuries, my wrist might not be as strong as it once was, but my fidelity to this country and its founding ideals has never once wavered. Gay and lesbian service members have always fought to defend this country ? soon, we will be able to do so as equals. On the next Memorial Day, I ask Al Krieger to remember our sacrifices, too.


If you even consider going to Arizona, you are not invited to my summer soirees. 

View Article  John Kerr, soldier

Like many veterans, my grandfather remained intensely private about his military experiences. My childhood memories are limited to stories handed down from my father and the only fear I ever saw in John's eyes -- when the fireworks exploded on the 4th of July. He would try, but always failed to remain outside. Even as a pool drenched six year old shivering under a beach towel, my excitement about the festivities was dampened by that look and his eventual retreat inside. 

John grew up to work in the steel mill. It was his destiny as surely as the four generations of mill workers who had come before, to continue the legacy of the Industrial Revolution.  He went into the mills in 1932 after graduating high school and started a family. 

Then, in 1942, he was drafted into the US Army Air Force 305th Signal Division Company.  (I may have the wording wrong b/c of conflicting documents.) He did his basic training and eventually ended up in the Philippines and then ... well I'll get to that.  He was a radio man, a fascination that stayed with him throughout his life. Always a transistor radio at his side. 

The few things I know either from family lore or his discharge papers.

- He survived a tsunami in the Philippines.  It just reminded me that he went to the beach every year, but never swam. Hmmm. His records don't list this stop along the way, but my father assures me he somehow ended up there.

- He was sent to Puerto Rico and then Okinawa.  Yes. I know what that means. 

- He was on Ie Shima when the Japanese formally surrendered.  We have some photos (I can't post them b/c they are somewhat racist) of the surrender. 

- He earned a Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Service Medal and Asiatic Pacific Medal.

I also have letters, dozens of letters he wrote to my grandmother from 1942, throughout his years overseas and ending with his last six months of service when we was stationed in New York. Her letters are lost to history, but I think she saved every scrap. Cards, notices about financial matters, post cards, military camp PR materials and memorabilia from her trip to visit him in San Francisco.

In the letters, he makes very little reference to anything military related except for mundane things like laundry, food and the boredom he experienced. A few times, he apologized for interruptions due to "being in the field" or away from paper and pen.  The overwhelming emotion in the letters is loneliness. While stateside, he describes going out with friends and the occasional homecooked meal from a friend's wife. Once he left the US, it was all about a craving to recreate the every day lives of his family through written word. 

This is what remains of his military service.

Once he was home, that was it. Obviously, he shared some with my father and I believe his brother, our Uncle Jimmy, had some stories to tell as well.  Jimmy was in Africa and Europe flying airplanes.  That's an entirely different story.

I really don't know much about the military history prior to the WW II generations. My great-grandfathers and great-great uncles signed up for the draft for WW I, but I've no evidence they were ever called up.  One great-great uncle disappeared, so I assume the worst. My aunt's husband was in the Navy. HIS uncle was a fighter pilot for Kaiser Wilhelm II and left Germany before WW II, eventually settling in Canada. My great-uncle worked on the Manhattan Project (allegedly). My uncles both served in Korea, but also never speak of it. My father went to sign up for the draft for Vietnam, spoke fluent French and was turned down for medical reasons (Thank God).  Since then, no one in our family has enlisted, at least in my immediate family. We do have a slew of engineers who work on all sorts of projects they can't discuss, but who knows why?

I'll never know the experiences my grandfather had. I'll never know what it was like for him to live with the memories, good and bad.  I'll never know what he would think of desegregation, women enlisting and things like DADT.  None of that really matters.  He did what he was asked to do.  Then he came home and did what he needed to do.  The every day story of men all over the world whom we remember, along with their fallen comrades, on this day.

John and his sister Diddy on Decoration Day 1942 (now known as Memorial Day)

History is filled with accounts of heroic actions, daring escapades and sacrifices. It is important that we remember the everyday women and men whose quiet sacrifices are oft overlooked.

The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected- Sun Tzu, the Art of War


View Article  New York Times on impact of repealing DADT

Always interesting to see which NYT pieces that PG picks up ...

Today they chose to look at the practical implementation of openly LGBTQ soldiers, especially morale. Opinions vary from shrugs (since its already happening) to concern about backlash and harassment to the ever-present rhetoric about destroying anti-gay, homophobic rights to hold those opinions (aka losing their religion.

Why Keith? Why does it threaten you so to deal with reality?

View Article  DADT Repeal Pick a camp

From Pam's House Blend.

1) The don't-know-enoughs: They only get information in drips and drabs, so they have no idea of the details of the votes or the compromise.  They believe it's repealed, the discharges stop ASAP; some are open to receiving more info to clarify their view. Others find a boatload of information just too taxing to deal with right now...Glee is on the DVR. Next topic...

2) The "it's all a lie" crowd: The compromise is a complete sham and betrayal of those serving in silence. Anything coming out of the press releases lauding the vote is skimming over the ugly truth. The MSM is making it all worse, and there's anger about how easily the progressives are fooled and don't dig deep to see the injustice that will continue. You can't trust the orgs, the admin, the Pentagon or Congress. A vein might explode. 3) The "rose-colored glasses" peeps: This is the start of something good, DADT repeal was rescued from a certain death; the Obama admin and the Pentagon will do right by those in the closet in the military in short order (as in before 2010 ends). They don't like to hear criticism about the process, the LGBT groups, the Admin, or Congress. Criticism is not useful; it's all about calling your representatives on the Hill alone as the best course of action. There is no back-channel political activity or political infighting  to consider that affects the process.

4) The cross-fingered pragmatists: The people who thought this was going to be totally FUBAR, but realized that in the late stages of the game, this was the best option we had and it's really not a good one at all for those directly affected by DADT. They believe that the system worked, albeit imperfectly, and that all parties -- the LGBT groups, the activists, Congress and the WH did what they thought was right to get it done.

5) The "system is broken" people: These folks are convinced that this whole process was screwed, and if ENDA is to have any chance of success, the whole LGBT establishment needs to take a hard look at what did and didn't work in this process. The messy end result didn't have to be that way, and it's clear that the Beltway process of achieving results is too laden in personal politics that supplant the larger goal of civil equality. These folks, however, don't exactly have a plan on how to fix it.

6) The everyone else-is-a-black-and-white-thinker crowd: These folks are the shoot-first, think-later people who believe they alone are capable of nuanced thinking and are filled with political sophistication. Other people are incapable of this of course, and are stuck in one mode of thinking without consideration of shades of gray in an issue. The everyone else-is-a-black-and-white-thinker person already knows what you might have to say about an issue, even to the point of ignoring actual statements that don't fit their perceived mode. So this results in endless threads/tweets of irrelevant discussion.

Where do you fit in? You may straddle a couple, or change from moment to moment.

Hmmm. I've seen many local Pgh folks celebrating the *repeal* of DADT with no indication that they grasp exactly what the amendment language means. Others celebrate the small step of progress.  No real local backlash thus far, at least not online. 

Some of these dynamics play out with regard to the LGBT advocacy in Western PA. I think people are pretty comfortable acknowledging there are backroom politics at play; they just want to cultivate a sense of loyalty among those who don't have access and take some personal offense when they aren't believed about what happens behind those closed doors.  I also think we have a lot of folks who "opt out" and that doesn't help. 

This indicates that part of the system that is broken is the LGBT advocacy system itself.  There's a lot of power concentrated in a few hands with little opportunity for participation or dissent. Long gone are the days when someone took the (open) mike at Pridefest to challenge the status quo or the powers that be. 

Still, there is something to be said for engaging people in terms of outreach to their elected officials, so I'm sort of straddling the idea that people need to engage within the system AND create more transparency to connect with people who are disengaged.  How that gels given an emerging LGBT political power base that mimics the old-school SW Pennsylvania Jurassic political system ... anybody's guess. 

Getting back to DADT, this is progress, but progress that we need to keep in perspective.  John Aravois from AMERICAblog has this to say.

If I thought this compromise were the end of the world, I'd say so. I'm not happy with the compromise, to be sure, and I'm not happy that the President chose half a loaf instead of just lifting the ban now and being done with it. But I do see a path forward under this compromise. And I see no chance whatsoever if we reject it.

That is why I say that, on balance, this compromise does more good than bad, and is certainly better than the alternative - doing nothing.


View Article  House Votes to Authorize Repeal DADT; Western PA's Critz votes against repeal

Bear in mind that this vote does not repeal the ban on openly LGBT men and women serving in the military.  The policy is still in effect.  It does start the ball rolling, but it could realistically be several years until the ban is lifted.  It could also remain in place. So proceed with caution.

Good call on the part of Steel City Stonewall Democrats to keep Critz off the slate.  He voted no on the repeal.

Critz?s surprisingly comfortable special election victory over Republican Tim Burns is attributable at least in part to the fact he positioned himself as opposed to many of President Obama?s policies. Opposing them on his first major vote in Congress is a signal to voters he doesn?t plan to break that promise. It also doesn?t give Burns any potential ammunition when the two tangle once again in the general election.

The Pennsylvania delegation voted along party lines otherwise.

Well, he did make it pretty clear he was not a liberal. 

More later on how the gay community is sorting itself out in response to this "progress." This is a pivotal moment, but we may disagree on why.

View Article  Steel City Stonewall Endorsement for November Primary

Preliminary information ...

Steel City's board has officially endorsed Sestak, Conklin and Onorato in the General Election.  Good discussion.  I'm sure the official slate will be up soon on the steel city website.  You can pick up copies at the booth during PrideFest. 

The slate will contain some informaton on why voting Democratic ticket is so important.

Meanwhile on the national scene, debate rages over the timidity of the DADT action.  Some, mainly the insider A-list gays, seem absolutely convinced this is significant.  Meanwhile, the more grassroots/actvist leaders are furious about the timidity.  Make no mistake, this is not a repeal.  The language is much more nuanced.  Pay attention and form your own conclusions. 


View Article  DADT passes Senate Armed Forces Committee; House May Vote Tonght

It is watered down, but it is a step forward. 


View Article  PA Congressman Patrick Murphy ups pressure for repeal of DADT

"So it was OK to waterboard a guy over 80 times but God forbid the guy who could understand what that prick was saying has a boyfriend."--Jon Stewart

It has been a big day for the repeal of DADT.  Specifically, there is word that Congress (both chambers) will consider amendments of the Defense Reauthorizaton Act, amendments that will repeal the DADT policy. h/t Towleroad

Of interest to those of us in Pennsylvania is leadership from Congressman Patrick Murphy, a strong proponent of the repeal. From MetroWeekly comes a copy of a letter to President Obama by Murphy and Senators Levin and Lieberman asking for "official views" on the repeal of DADT.

"We will continue to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle this week to pass legislation that repeals ?Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell? but does so in a way that accommodates the recommendations of the working group and is consistent with the military?s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention."

The HRC weighs in ...

The proposal would allow Congress to vote to repeal the current DADT law now with implementation to follow upon completion of the Pentagon Working Group study due December 1, 2010.  The President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs would need to certify that implementation policies and regulations are prepared and that they are consistent with standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention. The plan therefore addresses concerns expressed by the Pentagon that the implementation study process be respected.

Not everyone is a fan of this brokered compromise.  Pam Spaulding weighs in.

Do they think we cannot see the political jiu-jitsu at work -- it's repeal with no teeth, as in it gives the administration and the LGBT groups the ability to claim "victory" in 2010, without actually freeing the members of the military who will continue to serve in silence. They have to wait for 1) the study to reach completion (what was likely to happen regardless) and a new wrinkle -- 2) an arbitrary time when the President, Gates and Mullen decide they know how to implement it without any ill effects, and the president signs an executive order signaling "go forth" with anti-discrimination measures. That's a pitiful half-measure. How about "it's an order?"

The Obama administration has left the fate of service members in the hands of the Pentagon as the final arbiter -- and whoever was present  working on our behalf as a community thinks this is palatable. Remember that.

It is funny that two different folks told me today that I need to basically say "it's an order" more often.  Hmmm.

The vote to repeal, but lack of timeframe seems rather artificial. I just don't see why we have to coddle homophobes in the military. If people don't want to serve with openly gay soldiers (or African-Americans or women or people of the Muslim faith), DON'T SERVE.  Do something else to give back to your country. Don't hold back the brave men and women who are willing to serve -- sacrifice their lives -- us. 

Still, at this juncture, we need to continue putting pressure on our legislators to support the amendment.  Have you called, yet?

More later. 

Oh, here's a piece from KOS from the "this is bullshit" perspective.

View Article  State of the Nation on DADT

A post over at Daily Kos on the potental impassability of the DADT repeal and the consequences of such.

These activists share not a common organizer, but rather a common complaint: "Our needs are not being addressed. We are tired of being marginalized and ignored. It is not OK to toss us out of the coalitionas was done in the healthcare reform legislation and may well still happen on comprehensive immigration reform. We matter. Our contributions to the coalition are worth fighting for."

This really isn't a threat. It's just an insider's observation. There will be trouble. The gay community has done its work, by making our case to the American people. The poll numbers didn't move themselves, we've made it politically viable for Democrats to vote in our interests. It's time to do it. The solution to avoid all this angst and in-fighting, seems remarkably easy: Pass ENDA, repeal DADT. The valve will release. The storm will turn 180 degrees back out to sea.

The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld has a piece up on the non-impact of the White House LGBT liaison, Brian Bond.

The problem for Obama is ? no one knows Brian Bond, except Beltway insiders and selected A-gay ?leaders? with whom he apparently holds private meetings to presumably discuss the LGBT ?agenda.? It is impossible to know what is being discussed because the A-gays do not report back to the community either.

That very disconnect is an ongoing source of frustration for those of us who are very much not on the A-list. 

Failure to repeal DADT (or pass ENDA) is a sad reflection that the A-list is not the same as A-game. 


View Article  Trib Letter to Editor on Repeal of DADT

Groan.  Colonel Richard Young of Texas, formerly of Ellwood Cty has a letter to the editor in the Trib.  He argues against the repeal of DADT because it will impinge on military chaplains. 

While chaplains are willing to minister to everyone, including people they disagree with, they cannot allow the government to censor parts of their faith. Not only would chaplains lose religious freedom, but so would service members who wouldn't have the benefit of the full counsel of God if chaplains  are muzzled.

Pitting "religious liberty" against LGBTQ equality always frustrates me.  There are no freedoms to be lost for homophobic military chaplains if gay soldiers live openly.  Colonel Young disagrees:

Teaching on sexual morality would be endangered. Counseling biblically could generate charges of "discrimination." Declining to perform same-sex "marriages" could bring the ire of activists. And these scenarios could easily bring about career-ending Officer Efficiency Reports for chaplains who obey God rather than man.

Not true, Colonel.  The repeal of DADT won't have any impact on your ability to counsel soldiers.  Your argument would carry more weight if you could provide evidence that desegragating the military had an adverse impact on chaplains who found that decision offensive.  Other than personal angst ...

Gay activists don't care if you perform same sex marriages.  Seriously. The obey God, not man piece is quite a nugget -- this is the military, for God's sake. It is all about obeying men (and some women). 

Stll, Colonel Young took the time to write and submit his point of view in socially conservative SW Pennsylvania.  Are we effectively exercising our First Amendment freedom to do the same?


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