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Stories from the Frontlines: Army Major General Vance Coleman (Ret.)

"Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993. By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes! We ask that you forward and post these personal stories. 

May 27, 2010Vance Coleman

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I served my country for over 30 years. I enlisted in the Army as a private and retired as a Major General. During that time, I saw a great deal of change in the Armed Forces. Racial segregation was ended in the ranks, women were recognized as equals and we moved to an all volunteer force.

My father was a laborer, my mother a domestic worker. I knew that there was no way I was headed for college. As a young Black Man I enlisted in the army long before President Truman desegregated the armed forces.

I served in segregated units (all Black) before being selected for Officers Candidate School. I then attended an integrated Leadership Academy and then Officers Candidate School which was also integrated. After graduation from OCS I was assigned to a combat arms unit for which I had been trained. I was reassigned to a service unit (Graves Registration) that was all Black.

The message was clear: It did not matter that I was qualified to serve in a combat arms unit that happen to be all white. It only mattered that I was Black.

Mr. President, I know what it is like to be thought of as second-class, and I know what it is like to have your hard work dismissed because of who you are or what you look like. I also know what a difference it made to me and others when President Truman eliminated segregation in the Armed Forces and placed qualification ahead of discrimination.

As a retired Army Commander, I also know how disruptive it is to remove a trained skilled member from a unit. In Korea, I had a Sergeant First Class in my unit who was gay. it was no secret. He was in charge of the unit’s communication. He was essential to our performance and our survival and he was dam good at his job. If I had to remove him, our unit’s effectiveness, as well as morale, most certainly would have been harmed.

Military leadership is about being able to constantly adapt to change, and I have seen the Army implement significant change and react to new directives since I enlisted. Perhaps the greatest military change is that we are now an all volunteer force. I cannot believe that we could have made that transition successfully if the services were still segregated or if the roles of women in the ranks had not been greatly expanded.

The services have, for the most part, kept pace with changes in American society as to matters of race and gender. Likewise, they must now keep pace with the changed attitude among the American people, especially younger generations, concerning sexual orientation. If they do not, military service will become a less viable option for more and more young people, and the quality of our forces will suffer. I suggest that the warriors of tomorrow will not want to become a part of an institution that does not respect their peers.

The men and women who volunteer to serve, especially in dangerous times, are the most important resource of our armed services. This includes the lesbian and gay troops who have served – and – are serving honorably. Just like their heterosexual service members, they risk their lives to defend our country. Our country owes it to them, and to all our troops to treat all who serve with respect and gratitude.

Our armed services believe in, and promote, the idea that one person can make a real difference. To commanders on the ground in Iraq, an Arabic linguist can make a difference. To a parent, whose son is bleeding on the battlefield, one lesbian nurse can make a difference.

You, too, Mr. President, can and will make a real difference here. You can make a difference in whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed this year, and whether implementation comes shortly thereafter.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Mr. President, do all you can; stand with us and work with us to end this denigration of our American values.

Major General Vance Coleman
United States Army (Ret.)


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Shawn in Seattle, WA on June 08, 2010 at 04.04 pm

Doug, I can appreciate your fear that if homosexuality becomes popular that humans will become extinct. I don’t see how that is going to happen. Homosexuals are having children all the time and adopting unwanted children that are being born everyday. Being homosexuals is not about waking up one day and hoping to fit in to the popular crowd. I didn’t at 18 say, “What can I do for fun? Oh I know I will be gay!” I know that I was born this way as all my gay friends were. We are not deciding to join some happy fun party that is becoming popular. The reason it might seem more popular is because we are less afraid not to stay “in the closet” and are coming out more and more. Especially since young people are more tolorent then the older generation.

I assure you the homosexual lifestyle will not extinct the human race. The human race is doing that to ourselves.

Shawn a current homosexual.

Jennifer Brock in jax fl on May 31, 2010 at 09.00 pm


thank you for speaking up and taking your own personal experiences to illustrate the current discrimination in the armed forces.  I am a Manager and would not have the benefit of working with some of the best people in my field if we were subject to the don’t ask don’ttell policy in the financial IT world

Doug on May 31, 2010 at 04.15 pm

How many women are going to want to have a child by someone who considers them to be their second choice of lover?  Is it fair and unbiased to regard the biological parent as “second-class” when it comes to receiving love?  If that becomes “popular” what will happen to the birthrate?

Doug on May 30, 2010 at 06.46 am

If homosexual behavior becomes popular enough, humankind will become extinct.

Jesus said “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” [The Bible, John 7:24]  However, homosexual behavior is not a matter of appearance.  I think that if homosexual behavior becomes popular enough, humankind will become extinct, due to a reduced birth rate.

How should the extinction of humankind be prevented?

I think many people look to governmental laws for guidance and leadership regarding what kinds of behavior are harmful, and I think there should be guidance in laws regarding such matters, including homosexual behavior.

I believe the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law is nondiscriminatory because anyone can serve in the military who obeys the law.  Some believe it will be easier to get more soldiers by changing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law, but I think that there will be fewer people to recruit if homosexual behavior becomes popular enough, in part because of the reduced birth rate.

I believe homosexual behavior is not at its core a question of how we are made, because people have told me that they have been saved from homosexual behavior by faith in Christ.  I have never known anyone whose gender or skin color was changed by faith in Christ!

The Bible mentions this as well in the passage “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [by perversion], nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (The Bible, I Corinthians 6:9-11)

The testimony of many people who have been delivered from homosexual behavior in modern times and how they were delivered can be found, for example, at

or .

Respectfully, a former US Army soldier….

Pacific_NCO on May 27, 2010 at 11.44 pm

I remember seeing him tesitify on the first Congressional Hearing held about two years ago and was so impressed (and still am!) by his courage to come foward as an advocate, and I respect his experience and service so much…even as he was considered a second-class citizen. Thank you, Sir for your continued leadership.

Dino in Washington, D.C. on May 27, 2010 at 06.22 pm

Thank you Major General Coleman.  If only more general officers as well as politicians had your thoughtfulness and integrity. It is very interesting to hear those who weren’t even born in 1948 discount the paralels between the military’s separate but equal and DADT. Here you have someone who was not only around but in the US Armed Forces and directly affected by segreation and says that it is the same issue all around.

Suellen Kildegaard Dickson on May 27, 2010 at 02.37 pm

Sir, you make me proud.