Retired LTC Jack Hembree wrote in today’s Springfield News-Leader, “Despite the progress that has been made after President Truman’s courageous action [ending racial segregation in the military], there is still one glaring inequity that must be corrected. We now have an opportunity to right a wrong and end the years of shameful treatment to loyal gay Americans who serve in our armed forces.”
As a fellow Missourian and SLDN staffer, I can tell you: It couldn’t be said any better.
LTC Hembree’s views on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” were forged long before DADT became law and those of us who agree with him on the issue owe a debt of thanks to his father. In 1942, Jack’s father, Tom, was a JAG officer and legal advisor for the Japanese internment camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Jack was about 12 or 13 when his father took him to see the camp. “My dad wanted me to see that and never ever let that happen in America again,” Jack told the News-Leader in June.
What Jack saw at the camp—the harsh conditions, tarpaper barracks, armed guards, barbed wire fences—made an impression. Here were loyal American citizens, who had been uprooted from their homes, taking with them only what they could carry, being imprisoned because of fear and prejudice. And despite their confinement and discriminatory treatment, some of these brave Americans volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army.
Today, Jack sees similarities in the basic unfairness of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And he sees in gay and lesbian service members a love of country and commitment to service that deserves better.
Jack’s father instilled in his son a strong appreciation for American values and dislike of discrimination in any form. Jack served for 22 years in the Army, including tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam. “During that time,” he says in today’s opinion letter, “I served with gay and lesbian soldiers of all ranks, including a general officer who was gay.” In all those years, Jack says, he never saw or heard of any problems related to sexual orientation that impeded good order or unit cohesion.
Jack Hembree’s father taught him well. He knows right from wrong and he knows that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a shameful wrong that must end this year.
07-28-10 By Susan LaBombard, Major Gifts Officer |