Commentary: Our troops can handle gays serving openly

The Myrtle Beach Sun NewsDecember 15, 2010 

I have more faith in members of the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force than in the men and women who lead them.

I believe the men and women in those three branches of the U.S. military are such professionals that if top generals gave orders to treat fellow soldiers with respect, even if they are gay, they would follow those orders without much fuss or fanfare.

I believe U.S. soldiers are singularly focused on the task at hand, that they know maintaining progress in Iraq and making more in Afghanistan are so important that the absence of the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy would make little difference.

I believe that they cherish a man's or a woman's dedication and hard work and performance out in the field more than holding fast to a policy that has cost the U.S. military an estimated 14,000 troops, many of whom were trained then barred from serving their country because they are gay, even though they took invaluable language skills with them, the kinds of skills that are critical to the country's ability to track and kill terrorists.

I believe the experiences of the troops who were surveyed for a recently released report would be commonplace. More than 90 percent of troops who said they served with a gay service member said there were no problems with unit cohesiveness or other disruptions, the kind the leaders of the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force said they fear if don't ask, don't tell is stricken from the books.

The strongest argument against those who are trying desperately to hold fast to an outdated policy is the professionalism of the world's best trained military. It is an insult to suggest those troops are so shallow that a fellow soldier's sexual orientation could blind them to their mission.

The policy should be discontinued for a variety of other reasons as well. The country has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on the training of soldiers who were forced out for being gay during an era in which our military is stretched thin fighting a couple of wars and trying to root out terrorists.

The country's history tells us that with major sociological shifts come all manner of fear mongering from those who want to thwart progress of what horrible disasters await us on the other side of the change, only to have their fears proven to be overwrought and overblown.

More than two-thirds of Americans, according to polling data, as well as more than two-thirds of troops surveyed in the largest ever military study, the commander-in-chief, the secretary of Defense, the secretary of State and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all agree it's time to end the policy.

We have men and women in uniform literally willing to sacrifice life and limb to preserve our freedoms while we deny them basic civil rights and debate when or if they should be entitled to them.

Above all else, it is an affront to all that's good about America to in one breath say we support the troops then in the next whisper, "Only if they're not gay."

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