Today, students across the nation observe the Day of Silence, an annual day of action aimed at raising awareness of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Sponsored by SLDN’s allies at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Day of Silence illustrates the invisibility of bullied LGBT youth through students’ vows of silence. This afternoon, SLDN Military Advisory Council member and USA Colonel (Ret.) Stewart Bornhoft will speak to teenagers at High Tech High in San Diego, focusing on how service members coping with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” live this silence too.
With nearly half of today’s active-duty military under the age of 25, many service members affected by DADT have seen silence follow them from school to the military. SLDN’s clients have included ROTC cadets dismissed under DADT and other young people who have barely begun promising careers before discharge. SLDN staffer and former USMC Lance Corporal Danny Hernandez served only 2 years on active duty before his DADT discharge, despite 4 years and demonstrated leadership roles in Texas A&M’s ROTC and Corps of Cadets program. Still others continue to serve in silence as DADT remains on the books, forced to hide who they truly are in order to maintain their military commitments.
DADT also silences countless spouses, partners, parents, and other family members who live under the stress of lying. From USN Captain (Ret.) Joan Darrah’s long-time partner Lynne Kennedy, who would have been the last to know if Capt. Darrah had been injured at the Pentagon on 9/11, to a mother who hopes to see her gay son able to serve openly, family members have lived the realities of DADT alongside service members.
As President Obama remarked at this week’s launch of the White House’s “Joining Forces” initiative, “Behind every American in uniform stands a wife, a husband, a mom, a dad, a son or a daughter, a sister or brother. These families - these remarkable families - are the force behind the force.” In a post-repeal world, the spouses, partners, and family members of LGB service members will finally be able to stand in plain sight.
SLDN continues to push for the day when silence will no longer be the mandate for LGB service members and their families. The battle goes on, and we thank you for fighting with us.
04-15-11 By Elizabeth Shirey, SLDN Grassroots/Policy Advocate |