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Stories from the Frontlines: Former Air Force SSgt. Anthony Loverde

“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 and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law.  We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal.  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 4, 2010Anthony Loverde

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

Dear Mr. President,

They called me “vapor” --

As a little boy, I always had an interest in serving in the U.S. military. Both my grandfathers served in the Korean conflict, an uncle in Vietnam and I soon became the first of my generation to serve, followed by my brother and a few of my cousins.

After entering the Air Force in February of 2001, I eventually was promoted to Staff Sergeant. Although successful in my job as a Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) technician, I was still coming to terms of being a gay man.

I struggled with my faith that told me it was a sin. I couldn‘t talk to the Chaplain Corps because I had read about gays being discharged after coming out to a chaplain. And so, I continued to internalize my struggle with accepting myself, my faith and how I must live under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

As my separation date approached, many of my supervisors offered career-counseling. They all said the same thing: “Tony, you need to consider re-enlisting. You are the kind of Airman that the USAF needs to retain. You have a bright future in the Air Force and it would be a great loss to see you leave.”

They often times would ask why I wanted to leave, and I always replied: “I don‘t like wearing hats.”

Eventually, I changed my mind and was able to better manage living under DADT. I applied for cross training into C-130 Loadmaster and was accepted. I figured the high ops-tempo; frequent deployments and lack of down time would make for a great environment to keep me so busy that I just wouldn‘t have time to be gay.

I thought it was a brilliant plan.

As a distinguished graduate from Loadmaster training, I quickly established myself as a top-notch troop with the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Within four months of my arrival, I had completed my upgrade training and was mission ready. I deployed to Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But deployment can take its toll. I couldn’t lie to my fellow troops -- my friends -- anymore. I delayed coming out as to not compromise our mission and waited until we returned to Germany. At first, I ended up avoiding them as much as possible.

They nicknamed me “vapor” -- as soon as we hit the ground, I would disappear.

I didn‘t avoid them because I didn‘t like them, I avoided them because I respected them enough to not have to lie and burden them with my secret.

When I arrived in Germany, I sent an email to my First Sergeant to tell him I wanted to speak with my commander about being gay and not wanting to abide by DADT any longer. My commander said I served honorably and they would be there to support me in my transition back to civilian life.

Each one of my past supervisors from the ranks of E7 to E9 wrote character reference letters that requested my retention. My commander and First Sergeant said my character, performance and honorable service was not at question…it was merely a legal matter.

Upon my discharge, I was hired by global contractor KBR to fill a technical position in Iraq and later in Bagram, Afghanistan. I was once again working with the same Airmen I had worked for on active duty, but this time openly gay. No one had a problem.

I continue to work side by side with members of our military – each of them knowing me as a gay man -- and it has caused no impact on the mission. My contracting job for the Department of Defense now is the same job I performed when I was in uniform.

Mr. President, we need you to help repeal this law – this year -- so that my comrades continue to work in a force that retains the best and brightest based on performance rather than sexual orientation. Our men and women in the military deserve better. Listen to them, and, please, sir, do not turn your back on us.

Very Respectfully,
Former SSgt. Anthony Loverde
United States Air Force


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Dino in Washington, DC on May 05, 2010 at 05.17 pm

SSG Loverde’s work as a Defense Contractor for KBR in Iraq and then in Bagram, Afghanistan as an openly gay employee working with some of his fellow former USAF Service members demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt how assinine DADT really is. As a member of the US Miliitary he is a threat to morale and unit cohesion but an asset as a contractor working in a war zone, under similar condititions as the military with close quarters, long hours and minimal privacy and with the SAME people. Gimme a break.

Jim in Washington, DC on May 04, 2010 at 10.04 pm

Here’s a man who did his job, did his complete tours in the Iraq and Afghanistan, and when complete, he came out.  He not only received support of his command, his senior enlisted advisors asked him to come to their post - retirement company to do the same duties.  His former peers accepted him and served along side them in their duties.  And, yes, for MORE pay, in the same tents and showers, and the same dangers.

What a great American!!

Mr. President - time for you to carry out your word!  We need more men like this in our military!

Charles McCrory in Edwards AFB, California on May 04, 2010 at 09.28 pm

After reading this letter and others like it, how could the President refuse such an honorable man?  It just seems morally wrong to deny Former SSgt Loverde and the so many others the basic human rights they are asking for.

DADT reflects poorly on our military and our country as a whole.  The President urgently needs to put this to an end.

Steve on May 04, 2010 at 04.31 pm

Here is another example of someone being discharged doing exactly the same job as a contractor:

Bill on May 04, 2010 at 03.57 pm

If Skelton and McCain need any proof that gays and lesbians can serve well in combat zones, here it is.  Also, proof of the costliness of DADT.  Former SSgt. Anthony Loverdo didn’t tell us about his pay, but I would bet he cost the taxpayer much less on active duty than working for a notoriously expensive contractor.  To his benefit, my guess as a civilian his pay was much greater.  In addition, I’m sure KBR added a hefty fee just for providing him to our war effort.  What a waste!  And for the military, the loss of an emerging leader.