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Ironic: 12,000 vs. 12,500

A story in today's USA Today further demonstrates how "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" strains military readiness by continuing the need for involuntary extensions of combat duty, a policy known as "stop loss." Acknowledged by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as a burden to troops and their families, the number of soldiers impacted by stop loss rose to about 12,000 this March due to the troop buildup in Iraq and the extension of Army tours from 12 to 15 months.

The discharge of thousands of qualified service members because of their sexual orientation has deprived our armed forces of the resources and talent they desperately need in order to fill a growing demand for more troops. In fact, the number of soldiers impacted by stop loss each month is approximately the same as the number of service members who have been discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - over 12,500. The number of service members discharged under this discriminatory law also roughly equals the number of service members that commanders in Afghanistan are seeking to add to the 32,000 troops already on the ground.

Each day the military denies our brave patriots the freedom to serve based on sexual orientation, the strength of our armed forces is eroded. The need for stop loss exposes the failure of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" both as a law that jeopardizes military readiness as well as being unjust. This obsolete ban turns a blind eye to the needs of our military while violating the promise of liberty that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend every day. The time for repeal is indeed long overdue.

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