While serving as a military police officer for three years, Kyle ODonnell constantly lived in fear. He lied about where he was going, who he was with, and above all, about his sexuality.
At age 25, ODonnell suffered from high blood pressure because of this fear and ultimately left the military. The reason? Dont Ask, Dont Tell (DADT) had finally gotten to him.
In an attempt to inform others about the negative effects of former President Clintons DADT policy, the Human Rights Campaign has launched the Voices of Honor tour in support of President Obamas pledge to work with Congress and the military to end the policy.
The event came to Tampa on Sunday, May 23, at the Metropolitan Community Church where veterans came forward to discuss their experiences in the military under DADT. ODonnell was one of four former service members, telling his story of serving as a gay man.
Air Force veteran Kevin Klhar also served under DADT.
We really do need to repeal the policy, Klhar said. This is for everyone having to be something other than themselveslets openly accept gays and lesbians into the military.
Klhar was investigated for being gay three times before an officer tried to discharge him after being "outed" after 18 years of service.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the U.S. military has discharged over 13,000 service members under the DADT policy, costing taxpayers more than $290 million. On the other hand, at least 28 countries currently accept openly gay and lesbian service members and of these countries, not one has reported any morale or recruitment problems.
But the U.S. military has kept their policy intact for more than 15 years.
They dont care if youre an alcoholic, said Doug Tudor, a heterosexual retired Navy veteran who served alongside several gays and lesbians, and is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in District 12. Their bigger concern is if youre in a position to be blackmailed for somethingand being gay can be that something. But its just not right to purposely have to lie.
Tudor and the veterans encouraged the audience to repeal against DADT, urging everyone to call and write congressmen.
Pick up the phone one more time, Khlar said. Let them know you havent forgotten!
Tudor thinks adding personal stories makes changing peoples minds that much easier.
Let them know that these are normal folks being affected by the policy, he said.
The Human Rights Campaigns Repeal DADT Web site lists several ways for you to get involved to get movement on the proposal. Congress must vote on the issue to end the policy; the vote will come by the end of the year.
To get involved in repealing DADT, send a veterans story to Congress, contact Senator Bill Nelson or write a letter to a local newspaper, among other things.
For more information and ways to get involved visit www.hrc.org/RepealDADT.