Stories From the Frontlines: Discharged, Called Back, Discharged Again

Jim Burroway

May 11th, 2010

Today’s letter to President Barack Obama urging repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” comes from Former Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Daniel Knight, U.S. Navy. Petty officer Knight signed up several months before 9/11 and became a member of the prestigious Ceremonial Guard in Washington, D.C., where he represented our country at official White House ceremonies and during state and military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He was a witness to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, which only solidified his desire to serve. Knight continues:

My desire to serve my country continued while I completed my training as a Hebrew Linguist and began working in the field at Fort Gordon, Georgia. But I was also struggling with my own self discoveries.

In 2004, I filed paperwork annulling my marriage because I realized that I was gay. Keeping with the Navy’s core values of honesty and integrity, and very much naive to the severity of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I provided the military with copies along with a written statement to my commander, which subsequently resulted in my discharge under the law.

I was ousted from the service I loved, facing a recoupment of $13,000 sign-on bonus I received, and ushered to the gate. I felt shunned, broken and confused.

After a year of recovery, I received a letter recalling me back to service. While I didn’t understand why, I had an overwhelming sense of joy to return to the service I so loved.

I was sent to Kuwait for a year with the U.S. Navy Customs Battalion Romeo in 2006 where I continued to garner accolades for my service and even upped in rank, all while serving completely open. My immediate commanders and colleges were aware that I had been discharged once under DADT and knew that I was gay, yet they supported me because I was a great sailor.

After the March 2007 comments by General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he expressed his personal views of homosexuality as “immoral,” I decided to express my own personal feelings in a letter to the editor. This resulted in my second discharge under DADT, but I was willing to accept it.

You can read his full letter here. All of the letters from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s campaign are available here. The SLDN explains why they are publishing this series of letters from active and former servicemembers:

“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.

Regan DuCasse

May 11th, 2010

Sometimes, I’m very surprised, but pleased to see uniformed service members. Mostly they are in their fatigues, like this. And, my god…they all seem young enough to be my son or daughter. Their garments give them no individuality, but their ethnicity is usually the only thing that does distinguish them.

And, they look so good and they are proud. And, I always stop, thank them. Shake their hands, even though I would love to hug and kiss them like a mother/sister/friend would because I also know the gravity of service on their lives.
They could well be doomed and they break my heart, just by looking at them.

I have happily volunteered at Operation Gratitude and helped fill up care packages for the troops. It kills my arthritic hands, and I’ll be in pain for hours afterward, but…it’s a small price to pay to make our troops happy and know they are loved and supported.

But this.
These stories, tear at me. I am reminded, so vividly, of my father’s service in a segregated army. How the military didn’t give them good weapons or ammo. That black West Point graduates could be reduced to being errand boys for white enlisted men and that Nazi POW’s were given preferential seats in front of black soldiers at USO shows.

My uncle, refused to serve. He went to jail for three years. Both of my beloved relatives were so brave to do BOTH.
Amazing, the dichotomy and selfishness of bigotry.
That, it’s better to show committed and willing soldiers the back of this nation’s hand, than preserve it’s own safety effectively and that of other soldiers. Who are serving too many tours, and the military recruiting people of more questionable qualifications.
Such impractical spite. Treating this situation as if no precedent hasn’t already been set by other countries military. As if those same others, hadn’t already served with our troops.

How redundant. How frustrating.
How impossible to understand the waste of talent and courage, to serve bigotry over the nation’s true interests.

This beautiful young man…he deserved better. And perhaps our country doesn’t deserve HIM. His heart was broken, and a career destroyed.
A career that could so well been of mutual benefit to him AND our country.

I love these soldiers. I love the gay, lesbian and transgendered ones even more. I know what moral character and fortitude it takes to still want to protect freedoms you don’t have for yourself. You serve for hope and justice, even if sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any.

That is so utterly and brilliantly unselfish, you’d think this country would appreciate that, and tap it for the precious and rare commodity it is.

I love this young man, and every other soldier just like him.
I thank him. And he deserves to be reciprocated in kind. Especially by this nation and it’s citizens.
We owe him.

Timothy Kincaid

May 11th, 2010

Regan,

thank you again for adding context, complexity, and perspective to this issue.

Maurice Lacunza

May 12th, 2010

Twice removed from DADT? You got to be kidding. How can the government go to sleep at night? How do these military officials justify this? I am appalled at the disrespect towards these military people. Good job on this campaign.

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