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January 28th, 2010
01:49 PM ET

Gay soldier: Obama's 'don't ask' pledge a reprinted IOU

Editor’s note: Lt. Daniel Choi is an Iraq veteran and a West Point alumnus. He is facing discharge under "don't ask, don't tell," the 1993 law that bars openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the military. An estimated 65,000 LGBT Americans serve in the armed forces, according to the Urban Institute.

Lt. Daniel Choi is an Iraq combat veteran and a West Point graduate with a degree in Arabic.

Lt. Daniel Choi is an Iraq combat veteran and a West Point graduate with a degree in Arabic.

By Lt. Daniel Choi, Special to CNN

As we watched our president speak so eloquently and thoughtfully about our country, many heard the resounding theme: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."

He spoke about the economy, then our national security, and then started speaking about our values. I wondered: "Is he going to address 'don't ask, don't tell'?"

We heard the buzz in the past days that he was going to mention it. I felt the speech was nearing the end and I was becoming a bit uncertain. And throughout this past year of coming out, standing trial for telling the truth, and fighting my discharge, I have become accustomed to this feeling of uncertainty.

This past year's journey has been a roller coaster for me. After returning home from Iraq and beginning my first love relationship, I realized that I could not lie anymore. Falling in love made me finally see why relationships make us more complete and more secure; I also began to understand my soldiers and their families.

As a leader, I always accepted the fact that my subordinates needed a support system at home, but now it became more than theory. The support and strength I got from my love relationship proved what I learned all along. It made me a better leader and soldier to finally understand true love.

So why should I lie about that?

When I came out publicly in March there was a great deal of uncertainty. Since I knew the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy would only require a statement as evidence to fire me, I was forced to choose: morals and honesty or career and rank?

But since my soldiers, peers and superiors knew about me being gay and there was no evidence of discomfort or chaos in my unit, I figured the military may indeed keep this Arabic linguist and West Point educated infantry officer.

Even after the trial in late June, where no evidence of lowered morale or harm to "unit cohesion" could be found, my career was uncertain. In fact, when I told some that I gave portions of my testimony in Arabic, I noticed an increase in morale and support from my unit. Even with the microscope of the media cameras on my case, even with all the commotion, my unit remains professional and ready.

Lawmakers who think ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is a “successful” policy are out of touch. Senator McCain is detached from reality. Rep. Boehner is flaunting his ignorance. Honesty strengthens a unit. Now is the time to erase the policy of hiding and lying. Our values cannot wait.

But in the end, the current policy says I must be fired for my statement of truth. I still have not heard the final decision. Will it be an Honorable Discharge or "Other Than Honorable"? Will I retain my veteran's health benefits? Will I carry the burden when applying for future employment? Will I be forced to pay back my West Point tuition?

So while I am inspired by the president's commitment and message, I still carry a toxic burden of uncertainty about the outcome of my career. I love my job and my team; I want my unit to deploy with all the skilled soldiers, resources and support available.

The president, as commander in chief, listed his national security objectives, reminding us that 9 years after our country was attacked we must all do what we can to keep our nation and the world more secure.

Whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Haiti, I was excited to think that I could do my part in any of these efforts as a soldier. I was excited that by the end of this year I might be able to serve in a military where honesty is protected, not punished, by law. While I heard the majority of the speech addressing jobs, I remained uncertain about my own.

But why should I remain uncertain? With all the drama surrounding the one line and so many gay activists praising this utterance as if they wrote the speech, I felt I should join the celebration. But I ultimately felt the harsh reality of what was missing.

As dramatized as it was, it was not an executive order saving my job and those of thousands, but a repetition of a promise: a reprinted I.O.U. While America knows that repeal is indeed the "right thing to do," so far it has only been the "right thing to say."

In my view, President Obama could have addressed 'don't ask, don't tell' in any portion of the speech. It is a matter of national security, it is fundamental to our values, it is preventing me from doing the job I love. But ultimately, I have found more than a job. Fighting to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' fighting for the values of honesty, fighting for our love is a moral responsibility: it is a Duty.

And when faced with such a duty, despite our fears and uncertainties, we cannot "run for the hills."

We must take the hill.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lt. Daniel Choi.

Filed under: Gay Rights • Opinion
soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Former Reservist

    While I believe that DADT should be rescinded, certain adjustments will need to be made to address the privacy concerns of straight soldiers. Gay men are sexually attracted to other men. Sexual attraction is not simply some benign characteristic that we can be instructed to just ignore. For straight soldiers to be told to "suck it up" is neither realist nor fair.

    Many state that gay men are already bunking with straight soldiers so few adjustment will need to be made. The problem with this argument is while the gay solider know they are gay, the straight soldier doesn’t. Not knowing is significant. I am certain I have interacted with people who are pedophiles, drug addicts, spouse abusers, ect., and it is the fact that I didn't know they engaged in these behaviors that allowed me to respectfully interact with them.

    Also, why would one set of soldier's sensibilities be respected and not another? Not desiring to share your private space with someone who could be potentially sexually attracted to you is understandable. If it weren't, we would tell female soldiers to just "suck it up".

    Unlike characteristics like race or religious convictions, sexual attraction has a tendency to grow with familiarity. Once you accept someone’s race or religious affiliation they pose no further threat to you. Conversely, merely because a person is not attracted to you today doesn't mean that feelings won't change tomorrow. This is why race, religion, and sex cannot be placed in the same category. In the end, unless the issue of privacy is adequately addressed with an eye towards respecting all soldiers, a change in this policy, will only breed ill-will and contempt.

    February 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  2. Brian

    I see the moderator is unwilling to place my factual statement out here. It appears that CNN is not willing for the truth to be known, only for comments and banter to be tossed back and forth. Way to go CNN!

    February 2, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  3. Tony Smith

    As a gay veteran (USAF) and a friend of another gay servicemember who was killed in action while serving in Iraq, it saddens me that folks still are so confused or mis-informed about Don't Ask, Don't Tell.


    Gay servicemembers don't want to come out to everyone on the base, or parade down the base announcing their sexual orientation etc. What they want is to serve their country honorably and not be kicked out just for who they are and who they love. When it comes down to brass tax, gay servicemembers have been there protecting all of our freedom since the birth of this country, and they will continue to be there defending our freedoms well into the future. The quesion for everyone who reads this article is 'How are you going to repay them for defending your freedom?'

    February 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  4. Mike C.

    I don't think half you people get it. With Obama's pledge to repeal the DADT policy, it basically guarantees that the need of the few outweigh the needs of the many.....just like his silly health care plan. I don't go into work talking about my sex life so why is it we need to cave in to the Gay agenda? Just keep your mouths shut and everyone will be fine.

    February 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  5. Vince

    Retired Navy Officer's input:
    Serving in the military is not a right...if you wear glasses, you cannot pilot a naval aircraft, if you cannot carry a 100lb pack, you can't be a Marine..what about those people's "rights"?
    There are actually boundaries that define what people are allowed to do.
    It is once again an issue about the individual, instead of about the group.
    The construction costs alone would be staggering to modify ships so that there would be berthing for men, women, gay men, and gay women.
    Lt. Choi's letter muses whether he will be required to pay back his tuition, and will he retain his benefits. Seems like he should have researched this before he decides to violate the Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
    Seems pretty clear he put himself and his sexual orientation ahead of the Army.

    February 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  6. MMX

    It's not the gay people in the military who are "hurting unit cohesion," it's the people who let their bigotry interfere with their duty who are causing the problem. If a soldier is sexually harrassing another soldier, gay or straight, there are rules in place to deal with that kind of harrassment. But if a soldier cannot deal with the simple fact that he must tolerate the presence of a gay person in his unit, that's the fault of the bigoted soldier, not the gay person. It's amazing the lengths that some people will go to in order to justify their bigotry.

    February 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  7. John

    A previous comment states, "I am not a politician so I don't know everything". I am at a total loss as to how to address someone with such misconceptions, let alone take anything they say seriously. Gay rights are moving forward and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will fall along the wayside along with pre-suffrage and Jim Crow laws. All I can say is I am thankful for progress and the finite (though too long) lifespan of ignorant policy.

    February 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  8. Brian

    I served under three gay (male) supervisors in my 20 years in the Air Force. I must tell the truth: each one came on to his subordiates without regard. Many of the unit were afraid to say anything because "He writes our annual review." I stood up to the tyranny and each one was subsequently released from the Service.

    I have also worked for a myriad of women supervisors over my 20 years and I must say that I would not have a problem with gay supervisors if they would take the same stance as any other military supervisor of the opposite gender: realize that just because you "lead" people doesn't mean they are your personal property and are not available for your "dance card". Every female supervisor I had possessed the grace and maturity to take care of her subordiates without having to come on to any of them. I never witnessed or heard of one female supervisor "sleeping" with her subordiates. That is true leadership!

    However, this issue is truly a military one, and should not be up for debate by the general public. If you haven't ever served then you really don't know! It's like trying to understand what it means to grow up in poverty, if you haven't ever known it...or knowing what it really feels like to reach the top of the Himalayas, if you've never climbed it before. I appreciate all the "armchair quarterbacks" on here putting their two cents in, but it falls on deaf ears as far as I'm concerned. Come back and debate this with me after you've served.

    Give me a real leader (whether HIM or HER) and I will fall on my sword for that individual. However, the truth be known, only the gay females I've worked for, and with, didn't flaunt it and didn't destroy unit cohesion by trying to "recruit by force".

    February 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  9. David

    In a firefight, do you honestly think anybody is thinking of sex? Gays have been in the American military since 1776, and they've served proudly, if not openly. At the time, Jews weren't too loud about their religion, either. It wasn't until the 1950s that gays were banned; it was straight people who made it an issue in the first place, and have since spent millions of dollars in investigations and discharges. That money could have been spent elsewhere and more wisely than on witch hunts.

    And after Tailhook and lots and lots of other examples, straight servicemen are not saints or even celibate. Ask your female counterparts just how safe they feel. Straight sexuality has been flaunted for YEARS in the military, just look at the history of the pin-up and military-style tattoos.

    And, honestly, if you distrust someone who has not so much backtalked to you SOLELY because they are gay, you are the paranoid one. You have the trust problem. You are the one terrified. And you are the one causing the social disruption within your unit.

    February 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  10. ginny

    I'll bet there's been a LOT more women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed by straight men in the forces than straight men or women by gays! That said, I think "don't ask don't tell" wasn't such a bad idea if they could have been more lenient when finding out.
    Time to move into the 21st century.

    February 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  11. Steven

    Lt. Choi is an American Hero.

    February 1, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  12. Ryan Whidden

    Speaking of the Barry Winchell situation I think it is a good measuring stick of attitudes towards gays in the military, at least in the infantry. That murder happened in my brigade while I was a PFC and stationed at Ft. Campbell (I was in 1/502nd and it happened in 2nd or 3rd bat).

    Following the incident I heard many comments from other Soldiers ranging from indifference and apathy to amusement and support for the guy who did it. Never once did I hear a single Soldier complain, get upset, or even say they thought the guy was wrong. People were making jokes about it for months afterward and many felt he got what he deserved.

    Gay Soldiers in support units might be a feasible idea, I personally knew a number of gays and lesbians serving in those kind of MOS', but it will never fly in the combat arms fields like the infantry. It is full of guys with generally much more traditional views on manhood and life in general. If they try to integrate gays into those fields it will have a profound effect on unit morale and cohesion no matter what some would like to believe.

    February 1, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  13. Cathy

    Regardless of the feelings you have about gayness or the Don't-ask- don-t tell policy, Lt. Choi was aware of both the policy and the consequences when he chose to make his preference known. He chose to stand up against something he felt was wrong. Bravo. He also chose to suffer the consequences. I assume he chose to be a sacrificial lamb to make a statement. Now that he is facing the result of his choice, I find it difficult to understand why he is surprised by the result of his actions, or why he believes he will be granted a reprieve. Maybe some day he will be considered a hero. Apparently this isn't that day.

    February 1, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  14. dan

    i'm x navy. im not a social engineer, but if my gunner cant figure out his 'god given sexuality', how can i trust my life and my back to him?

    February 1, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  15. sev martinez

    As a retired Army First Sergeant I am tired of skirt chasing (Clinton), non-veteran presidents, constantly trying to fix something in the military that is not broken. Clinton and Obama have absolutely no right whatsoever to change something they have never experienced. I believe that allowing gay military to announce publically that they are gay will jeopardize their safety.

    February 1, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  16. To The Shores of Tripoli

    I think in today's society most of us don't care about a person's sexual orientation. I have friends and relatives who are gay and I know from first-hand experience that being so doesn't make them a lesser person. I do, however, cringe when someone flaunts their sexuality, and I think that is when LGBT types hit a wall. As for Lt. Choi, I have no doubt about his abilities to lead. However, the Lt. did take an oath, and as an officer, he, more than anyone else, is expected to uphold that oath. By flaunting his sexuality and trying to change military policy by flaunting it, he is violating his oath and his allegiance. No one put a gun to his head and forced him to accept a commission in the Army. He did it completely voluntarily and he knew in advance what the Army's policy was. So now, AFTER the fact, he's complaining? It's obvious he has an agenda – whether it's for his 15 minutes of fame or another reason, I guess we'll never know.

    February 1, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  17. Brad

    Back ground: 25+ years of service and still going. My objection to this is sexual orientation. We dont house or berth males and females togethor because of the problems communal sleeping areas and heads facilities would cause and you can deny it all you want but if you start allowing gays to be "open" about there sexual orientation you are going to start a lot of problems.

    Where some on here are preaching how perfect gays in the military conduct themselves sexually I can tell you stories of the opposite. They have the same failings hetrosexuals do and they at times act on them, how do you think many of them get found out? I wouldn't have a problem serving with them I would however have a problem showering and sleeping with them in the same manner as I would if it was a female. If you can't satisfy the concerns that many of us have in the military concerning gays then its not fair to force us into uncomfortable situations.

    Those that try to liken this to racism are clueless on both subjects. Listen to those that don't agree, most will tell you that it's about what I have stated above, some will express a religious concern, which they have a right to, I havent heard many if any say it's about bigotry or hatred, they did say that however while racially intergrating the military.

    And I really love the arguement that people use, "the Military has gay and lesbians serving Now" yep they sure do so it seems that DADT works for everyone so why screw it up.

    February 1, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  18. US Army

    Thanks to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, I saw many friends leave me in Okinawa in 1980-1981. I know everyone is busy trying to fix the economy and healthcare, but PLEASE take one moment and get rid of this ridiculous rule. I was told in the 1970's that they needed to keep gays and anyone out of the military that could be blackmailed. Everyone seems to be out now so big deal! Also, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is asking our otherwise honest and upstanding military to lie. Let's end this now.

    BTW I am a conservative Christian Republican.

    February 1, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  19. US ARMY - Female

    Serving the military is a priviledge, not a right. The military has seen several men & women serve without pushing their sexuality out in the open, long before Don't Ask Don't Tell. Perhaps it is better accepted if the issue is left alone. Believe me, there are many that believe not knowing is better than being pushed to accept. For those that want their discharge for homosexuality overturned, you can forget it.... They will not grandfather anything regarding your discharge, it is a done deal. For those that believe that removing Don't Ask Don't Tell will help you or make the military stronger, you are a fool because the military has many other CHAPTERS and things they can use to make it look like you are unsuitable continue to serve.... So, be careful what you wish for and even if you get DADT removed understand that there are those that will put you in their sights for all kinds of difficult situations and it is a shame that has to be said, but it is a fact...

    February 1, 2010 at 9:39 am |
  20. MilBrat

    What I think is most interesting is that people who do not want this overturned are more concerned with the comfort level of predjudiced people, then of honorable soldiers who happen to be GLBT. We would never allow the military to discriminate against someone based upon their gender or race, so why sexual orientation? As long as there are harrasment laws and procedures in place, there should be no reason to keep this antiquated rule. I aslo think it is interesting that people are more worried that the straight soldiers will be harassed, not the GLBT ones! Stupid, ignorant people will harass other people, and they will be dealt with and dischagred. That will never change!

    You are perscuting an entire group and forcing the discharge of countless honorable men and women at a time when we need more, not less of them. They lay their lives on the line so that we can continue to live our lives and enjoy our freedoms, so why is it ok with the American people that the same freedoms are not extended to the soldiers that protect them? It is outrageous and wrong that such a discriminatory rule still stands.

    February 1, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  21. Ken

    Having served over 25 years in the military I believe the 'don't ask don't tell' policy has been very effective. If an individual feels they cannot live with that policy they should refrain from enlisting.

    February 1, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  22. Carlos

    Lt. Choi,
    I admire your courage and honesty and you are truly an example of what West Point can produce. Regarding the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I just do not understand the brass position on it. You are trained our men and woman to perform a task, and performing that task is has nothing to do with who do you love or sleep with. What does sex or sexual orientation has to with your unit? It seems to me that if there were problems with morale, cohesiveness etc., it would be problem with your training. I mean we are giving you weapons that could kill thousands or millions of people and you do so based on orders given to you. I don't understand their opposition.

    February 1, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  23. Casey Blase

    The truth is, "flaunting it" as so many put it, can be something as simple as being in a relationship. Barry Winchell was killed when there was a rumor of him being gay. He didn't come out of the closet, he didn't flaunt it, but when someone accused him of dating a transsexual, the military investigated it, and before he could be discharged, he was beaten to death by a baseball bat.

    When you have to hide something and then you say it allowed, that is considered flaunting it, but when your open and honest and say something, it's just a fact, nothing more then 2+2=4.

    If I go to a Yankees game, and someone talks to me, and I say I am a Red Sox fan, I am "flaunting it" even if I only say it, and don't show any pride in it with merch. Face it anytime someone doesn't go with the flow they are "flaunting."

    So it seems everyone is more upset that people don't just keep their mouths shut and let this be a non-issue, even if it is an issue to them.

    February 1, 2010 at 8:53 am |
  24. gamredd

    I thought my comment was fair. Not displaying my comment was not fair. I guess Fox news is the only fair and balance news outlet out here.

    February 1, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  25. gamredd

    My issue with this is would it effect the moral of the armed forces. There are alot of tight quarters you have to be in while in the military. I was doing drill at a base where the showers were very small and there were open toilets with no sides and everything. It would be very difficult for me to be in a situation knowing I was among gay men. I know not all gay men are over aggressive, but I live in Atlanta,Ga. and gay men can be very aggressive here. I personally believe that I could serve better if I didn't know the sexual orientation of the guy next to me. I have nothing against gay people at all, but I would not want to jeapordize the most powerful armed forces in the world. Would it start the begining of alot of sexual harrassement cases? Could a person who is straight ask not to be in a unit where gay people are? Too many questions could be ask about this subject. I say leave it alone!!!

    February 1, 2010 at 8:18 am |
  26. Danny

    Background: I'm a straight male who served 8 years in the US Army.

    During my time in service I served with many gay and lesbian soldiers and recall no incidents that were related to their sexual orientation. When we were deployed we showered in the large open showers I never heard of one of the gay men becoming so overwhelmed by the masculine displays that he offered to soap another soldier's back. All that I worked with were professional.

    I find the notion that we would have to double the number of facilities if soldiers could be openly gay as offensive. It brings to mind the separate facilities required for blacks in the south, even as late as the 1950's. Not really required, just the result of bigotry. To reiterate – the military has MANY gay and lesbian member NOW and the additional facilities are not currently required.

    February 1, 2010 at 6:49 am |
  27. Eric Pearl

    It is inaccurate, at best, to say that "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lt. Daniel Choi." They are those of most intelligent, decent people today who feel that everyone should share equal rights in love and life. We are just waiting for the rest of the world that doesn't quite get it yet to catch up.

    February 1, 2010 at 4:57 am |
  28. Blue Shift

    Concerning Vicky Bevis:

    For your information ma'am, the recognized scientific community has confirmed many times that there is no genetic marker that predestines an individual to be homosexual. There ARE the occasional genetic discrepancies whereas females generate large amounts of testosterone and males can generate large amounts of estrogen. However, many of these individuals go on to happily lead straight lifestyles in spite of this, while some become homosexuals. Interestingly, many individuals without these conditions in their genetic makeup have also come to practice homosexuality as well. This would seem to indicate that the trait is indeed a result of choice, not a result of genetic inclination. Researchers believe such inclinations are rather due in greater part to environmental and emotional influences as they grow up.

    I am glad your son is such a caring and thoughful individual, and I do not harbour any ill will towards him, his friends, or you. I do not doubt that you love your son any less for his preferences, for which I applaud you. But I would like to pose this question to you: were you filled with pride upon learning of his choice? You don't have to answer that, but I think your acceptance of his lifestyle is more of a result of subtle peer pressure both from him and his friends rather than from coming around to that viewpoint naturally. Could it be that as a mother, you came around to your current viewpoint out of a desire to not alienate your child because of your previous views? This is not an accusation, but rather an observation.

    To all parents, is it possible that we have let morals we were brought up to hold as sacred fall by the wayside in order to accomodate out of a desire to not lose the love and respect of our children and not be regarded as old fashioned and close minded? When does right and wrong become inconvenient? I say when one has to wonder if his/her actions fall into this category, it is already too late.

    I do not mean this to offend, but rather to invoke thought. If I have offended anyone I apologize, but my views stand. Perhaps the 'lunatic fringe' is more of a perception of that which we do not want to hear for fear of questioning ourselves and fearing what we might find.

    February 1, 2010 at 3:35 am |
  29. Legoftrout

    Abolishing the DADT policy would literally split the military in two. As mentioned before, we would effectively be creating a new sub-class with even more priviledges and special considerations above and beyond that accorded to standing serving individuals. Furthermore, building separate barracks, facilities, implementing new training requirements, and changing rotational standings would not be a possibility, it would have to be implemented. And to me, the sheer expense of building and maintaining such a policy to accomodate so few at the expense of so many would be beyond ridiculous, and not enough to justify such an expenditure.

    As well, the Commander in Chief has failed to take into account the feelings of the vast majority of those who would have to live with the consequences of this attempted policy change. I liked the female/male showering parody mentioned earlier, as this would accurately describe how the vast majority of us would feel having such a policy change forced upon us. Saying we do not understand is ridiculous; if anything, we understand it too well, and that is why so many of us do not support such a change among other reasons. To say that we as soldiers should suck it up and 'adapt and overcome' as someone put it is very easy to say when you are not the one who has to share rooms, beds, and showers with these individuals on a daily basis. Are we so concerned for the special needs of so few we so willfully ignore the feelings of so many? A good quote comes to mind: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." Giving so few such special priviledges and benefits while punishing so many is not only poor management, but a form of discrimination in itself. Saying that there would be no noticeable repercussions from such implementation is simply naive; moral would plummet as it would anywhere else that one group is given special priviledges and benefits over another while the other is punished directly and indirectly as a result. The added stress and discomfort the vast majority would have to deal with as a result of this would sap morale like a sponge does water.

    It looks very much like the Commander in Chief is using this as nothing more than a political tool to secure more votes alongside frantically scrambling to focus on other politically correct topics so suddenly, and I am saddened that the military is being subjected to such experimentation at such a juncture. It also feels like the gay community is less interested in freedom of expression than simply having more special priviledges heaped upon them so that they can not only express their sexual preferences, but flaunt it and throw it in the faces of those who are uncomfortable with their practices as a matter of morality. I think it would be a grave mistake to give into such a change on a number of grounds, many of which have already been covered.

    Lt. Choi, as a fellow soldier currently serving in Iraq, I applaud your service and dedication to your country. However, what you did and what you are doing now is wrong, and refusing to admit you are wrong but instead trying to justify it and force your view on those serving who don't share it demonstrates a clear lack of the honor and integrity you claim to cherish. I applaud your qualifications, but using them as a crutch and expecting special treatment because of them dishonors both yourself and the military that trained you. You knew exactly what the law was, and you chose to break it anyway, and are now being punished for it. It seems to me that this tirade of yours is more about you being indignant that you were not given special treatment when you broke the law than it is about you being discriminated against. If you truely believe in honor and integrity as you claim, then act like it. Accept that you are wrong instead of trying to justify it, and accept your punishment like a man does. And for the love of God, stop trying to force your view onto the military via politics. Stop acting like an indignant child that didn't get the piece of candy he wanted, and act like the grown-up you claim to be.

    February 1, 2010 at 1:02 am |
  30. zzmook

    To all the people spouting the "Separate Showers" justification – the policy isn't "gays can't serve" it's "don't tell me you're gay" – so the gay people are seeing the equipment now.

    If this gives you the heebie jeebies, don't go to gyms, join the military, or participate in sports. Don't pee in public restrooms. You know what, just black out the windows and don't ever leave the house. I think we'll all feel better if you do that.

    February 1, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  31. T. Cook

    Follow simple instructions! "Don't Ask, Don't Tell!" Democratic President came up with it, and imposed the sanctions for it. We discharge other Soldiers for much simpler things such as "Failure to Obey Orders of those Over you!" Artice 92, UCMJ. LT Choi has failed to follow simple instructions! He should be discharged for his penalty.

    Afterwards we can discuss the repel of Don't Ask, Don't tell. He is an officer and sets the example, he has failed BASIC LEADERSHIP TENETS! NO EXCEPTIONS FOR HIS FAILURE!

    You can't change that!

    January 31, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  32. Tim

    I retired from the military three years ago and for me to try to say that I never served with a gay/lesbian would be a lie.

    With regards to the statement made by Brian – Got news for ya, you've been showering with gay people. It's impossible to serve in the military without having this happen.

    I respect LT Choi's service, I don't care whether he's gay or straight but the rule is the rule and until the rules are changed you follow the rule before you.

    My niece served 8 years in the AF and is lesbian – it did not stop her from earning Airman of the Year or advancing through the ranks, but like I told her prior to entry, keep your piehole shut and your nose to the grindstone until the rules are changed. She did and was honorably discharged and retains her veteran status because she followed the rules.

    So, change the's overdue, but LT Choi knew what he was facing when he violated the different than someone who fails a urinalysis.

    January 31, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  33. David

    This policy is as outdated as the "whites only" water fountains/bathrooms, etc. Anyone who still supports this should ask themselves this question: Can you go through your entire career in the service without mentioning JUST ONCE any minute detail about your wife or husband? Because, if I have to hear about how you're in a straight relationship and hear anything about your wife/husband & kids, then you get to hear about my relationship.
    Fair enough?

    January 31, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  34. JB

    You are gay. I do not accept it and I have the right to not accept it. As do you, you have choices to either try and change something that the majority of people that I know in the military. Oh Ive spent 12 years in the Marines and Army. So I have the right to speak. Thanks

    January 31, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  35. Brad Gross

    Thank You Lt. Choi for your service and courage to come out and discuss this situation. I served 9 years in the Air Force. I knew fellow service members that were gay. They were just as committed and focused as any other Air Force member. I had no problem with their sexual orientation and it is about time to drop the No Ask/ No Tell Policy and let them serve freely. The sooner the better.

    January 31, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  36. Ryan Whidden

    I don't want to get into the debate of morality and whether the don't ask, don't tell policy is right or wrong, but to address some issues with the authors accounts of the situation. Being a former NCO and combat veteran myself with 7 years of service (I have been out for almost 5) I think I have a more informed opinion about the military and it's culture than most readers here.

    I have an issue with his claim that he is being unfairly perscuted for being "honest". The policy in question prevents military leadership from asking about the sexual orientation of members and conducting "witch hunts", but being gay is still a violation of the UCMJ and requires discharge from service.

    To get to the point he is at now Lt. Choi intentionally lied and misrepresented himself for four years at West Point, as well as however long he has served in the Army. He has lied to peers, subordinates, and superiors to build a facade that allowed him to pursue his own goals. Coming clean now is not done out of the interest of honesty but his desire to change an institution and it's culture to serve his interests. It is not honorable but wholly self-serving.

    He tries to tug at the sympathy of readers with his plight of being uncertain about his future and loss of benefits. However his career and benefits were predicated on a planned and maintained dishonesty to cover his ineligibility.

    January 31, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  37. Rod

    I served honorably for 20 and retired. Thank you Lt for your service. Do not disrespect Senator McCain after his time as a POW. My personal opinion is that all who are willing to serve that are not criminals nor mentally incompetent should be allowed to serve. I had no problems berthing with homosexuals even though I am a heterosexual (not "straight" cause that implies gays are crooked). The generals and politicians would do well to ask the rank and file for their opinions.

    January 31, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  38. Joel

    Was unit cohesion affected when Truman ordered integration in the 1940s? Yeah, it was. Guess what: THE UNIT GOT OVER IT. And now our racially integrated military is the finest on Earth.

    Really? Is the thought of a gay guy seeing you naked _really_ going to bother you enough to throw out one of the military's few Arabic speakers? Really? As an athlete, I've showered with straight guys, gay guys, bi guys, who-the-hell-knows guys all my life. _Nobody cares._

    Get over it already, and let those qualified to serve do so.

    January 31, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  39. Steve

    So let's step back and look at the argument and make a decision based upon the argument and the success of the argument throughout the history of our military:
    1) We shouldn't let blacks in the military, because it will destroy unit cohesion and effectiveness.
    2) We shouldn't let women in the military, because it will destroy unit cohesion and effectiveness.
    3) We shouldn't let gays in the military, because it will destroy unit cohesion and effectiveness.

    The battles against 1 and 2 were the same as 3. The argument against 1 and 2 were proven wrong.

    So, the same argument, no history which validates the argument against. Why is it being used again? Why should it be believed?

    It just sounds like another excuse to exclude someone for something.

    January 31, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
  40. Walter

    I AM IN THE MILITARY AND REALLY DONT CARE IF YOU ARE STRAIGHT , GAY, BLACK OR WHITE, OR ANY OTHER NATIONALITY. If this group decided to serve their country, good for them. Most who comment on these blogs probably have never served. I believe every person who graduates High school, should owe thier country at least two years in the military. I have found joining the military was the best choice I have ever made. And have served with both gay and lesbians through two tours of Iraq, and would proudly serve with them again and again. The politicians on Capitol Hill need to wake up or better yet, get them out of washington, they are living on past morals and beliefs. Times have changed. Get rid of the Dont ask Dont tell, legalize marijuana(much safer than alcohol!!), and please all people over the age of 60 in the Senate, House and Congress, RETIRE!!!!!

    Well spoken Sir, and would proudly serve with you during wartime or Peacetime. HooAh!!!!

    January 31, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  41. Darren

    Commenter Matt is mistaken. This is *not* DoD policy, it is *law*. Congress passed the law, President Clinton signed it, and it will take Congress and either a presidential signature or veto override to change it.

    January 31, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  42. Brian

    I am currently on active duty and I've deployed multiple times. If you want to know why gays can't openly serve, I'll tell you: because males and females can't shower together. This may seem like a crazy statement until you really think about it.

    Why can't males and females shower together? Because it would make both males and females extremely uncomfortable for those of the opposite gender to potentially see them naked. This isn't a complicated concept. So how do we keep males and females from showering together? We have separate bathrooms.

    So let's see, to have the same exact effect...we would have to DOUBLE the amount of bathrooms the the military has to provide in order to foster this social engineering. So you think we spend a lot on the war now? Just wait until this one hits.

    That's not even to speak to how to deal with combat arms branches of the military (i.e. infantry, armor). Most civilians and even military members that aren't in these branches don't understand the close living conditions and the absolute lack of privacy these soldiers have to deal with. This is one of the biggest reasons that females cannot join a job that is labeled as "combat arms." These is simply no way to have any privacy at all.

    I don't think anyone is trying to discriminate against or hurt gay people. However, I think some things are more important than making individuals within that community feel better about themselves, such as placing the security of our country above social engineering.

    January 31, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  43. John

    Remember ( think back...) when blacks in the military, was going to destroy morale and there would have to be "separate" everything...Or women....or whatever minority of the week they want to use as an excuse....There are people that want to "hate" what they can not undersand....unfortunately they will always be around...but the rest of us don't have to let them succeed...Hatred is taught....usually very early, to perpetuate the status quo. Change is frightening for some people and that is what is really sad. Most military people are very professional and having come from a Military family ( US Marine Corps) as well as serving in the military myself, I feel the repeal of dont ask, don't tell will not be the demise of our armed forces.

    January 31, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  44. TSgt

    Alex Turner hit the nail on the head. This is not about gay men/women being tough enough or dedicated enough to "kill people and break stuff". It's about creating additional classes of persons (aside from Male/Female).

    Forcing co-habitation of men/women is not allowed. So by eliminating the restriction on serving and being openly gay, what exactly do the military branches do? Create seperate barracks/latrines/showers for gay men and women? That's a possibility, even though it essentially only transforms the issue into public segregation, rather than a private personal choice.

    Now imagine the overwhelming amount of money/effort required to create all these new facilities. Imagine the overhauls to EVERY personnel system now required to record sexual preference. Now balance those costs to money and resources with the need to update equipment, reconstitute units rotating in/out of the middle east, and provide quality of life improvements to those currently serving. (Did you know we are flying airplanes and working out of buildings that were new in the 1950's?)

    The final part of this equation is the constant reduction of military spending. I'm not talking about the money necessary to fight wars; I'm talking about budgets for standard operations. It's one thing for the President to harvest liberal political capital by expouting threats against the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I won't be convinced that he's serious about it until he provides the funding to enact these changes in the RIGHT way. The right way is NOT telling straight men and women "you just have to deal with it".

    I am active-duty, and do not discriminate against those who are homosexual. I've seen a lot of great Airmen get discharged for being gay. However, the current policy works, even if it is not the most desirable policy. For true integration, don't frown at the mention of "increased military spending", because that is the only way to change.

    January 31, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  45. MLR

    I'm an Army major, on active duty since 1994.

    I have NO SYMPATHY for an officer who, knowing what the current policy is, deliberately goes against it and then is surprised when he gets in trouble. If he's gay, fine, he's gay. However, he knew that an open admittance of his being gay could result in a discharge. Now I'm reading about his 'struggle', his 'fight' on CNN.

    I'm also not impressed with his referring to himself as an Arabic speaking/West Point grad/Infantry officer. Sorry guy, I didn't realize how important lieutenants are. Is he more important than any other homosexual currently serving? Should we fight to keep him in any more than the gay soldier who cooks for a living?

    Other posters indicated they had served with LT Choi, and I'm sure he's a fine officer and asset to his unit. This is not a ding on him or his sexuality. This is about the policy as it is. The military is not an equal opportunity employer. LT Choi is wrong, as he has knowingly violated the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, period. He ran the risk–and if he gets discharged, the military would have wasted tens of thousands of dollars in training and education on him.

    January 31, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  46. Clayton

    I don't see the issue with having gays in the military. I'm a SGT in the Army and I KNOW we have gays in our ranks. Has this ever made a difference? No. I recognize the contribution gays make to our military. I don't know what many people are referring to when they describe them as wanting to "flaunt" it. You mean someone wants to be themselves? What a surprise! You can only pretend to be someone you're not for so long. It is time we recognize the gays in the military. They are there. Ignoring them does not fix anything. They make the same sacrifices we make and their sexual preference should not be a deciding factor in anything. This policy is outdated and I hope it gets fixed to allow everyone to be themselves.

    January 31, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  47. Clayton

    I don't see the issue with having gays in the military. I'm a SGT in the Army and I KNOW we have gays in our ranks. Has this ever made a difference? No. I recognize the contribution gays make to our military. I don't know what many people are referring to when they describe them as wanting to "flaunt" it. You mean someone wants to be themselves? What a surprise! You can only pretend to be someone you're not for so long. It is time we recognize the gays in the military. They are there. Ignoring them does not fix anything. They make the same sacrifices we make and their sexual preference should not be a deciding factor in anything. This policy is outdated and I hope it gets fixed to allows everyone to be themselves.

    January 31, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  48. Claire Woods

    I feel like we are living in the dark ages, this law is absurd. What are the higher ups in charge of the military afraid of? They should be afraid of losing a great soldier. Should I be afraid that the boogey man might get me in the middle of the night or that there are monsters under my bed?? Really people, grow up.
    To Lt. Daniel Choi I say thank you for serving our country.

    January 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
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