As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ask, Tell

The first Marine to be injured in Iraq just came out today, and only Pat Robertson, Tim Hardaway and Jerry Falwell would believe that this is a bad development.

Once a Marine, always a Marine. That pretty much sums up the life of retired Sgt. Eric Alva, who was sworn into the Marine Corps at 19, stationed in Somalia and Japan and lost his right leg when he stepped on a land mine on March 21, 2003, the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As the war's first injured soldier, Alva was an instant celebrity. He was on "Oprah." President Bush awarded him the Purple Heart. Donald Rumsfeld visited. And strangers in Alva's native San Antonio still insist on paying for his dinner at Chili's. Last fall Alva, 36, contacted the Human Rights Campaign, the gay rights group, and asked to be involved in its lobbying effort. Today he'll stand alongside Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) when he introduces a bill to repeal the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel.

There's a Q & A with Alva on the Washington Post's website, and he's deadly accurate with his comments.

Q: You come from a military family?

A: I come from a family of servicemen. My dad, Fidelis, is a Vietnam vet. My grandfather, also named Fidelis, was a World War II and Korean War veteran. I was named after them. My middle name is Fidelis. Fidelis means "always faithful."

Q: What does sexual orientation -- gay, straight, bisexual -- have to do with being a soldier? A Marine?

A: First, thanks for recognizing that I am a Marine. Second, to answer your question, I have tons and tons of friends that were in the military at the time who knew I was gay because I confided in them. Everybody had the same reaction: "What's the big deal?" . . . The respect was still there. Your job is what you're doing at its best. Your personal life, your private life, is something you do after work. What's funny is, when I was based in San Diego, Calif., people would go to a gay club and everyone would have a haircut like mine. They had their dog tags on. But come Monday morning, nobody talked about it, nobody dealt with it, everybody was back to work.

Despite the fact that a large segment of the population still can't deal with homosexuality, the truth is that it has no bearing on one's professional capabilities. At a time when the military is starving for fresh recruits, denying patriotic Americans to serve and also publicly disclose their sexual orientation is a relic of a backwards-thinking age. The American public actually supports repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and I'm of the same opinion. Anyone who thinks otherwise, who uses their bigoted beliefs to demean men and women who want to serve, doesn't support the troops. In 30 years, when this policy is overturned, people are going to scratch their heads and wonder why anybody cared about the sexual orientation of a military member.

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