Soulful Soldier

Pam has another excellent post at the Blend (and Big Brass Blog) about an Iraq war veteran with a Purple Heart, Army Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, who wants to continue his military career, but the military isn’t sure they want him. As you may recall, the Army is having problems meeting its recruitment goals, the National Guard is relaxing educational standards and age requirements, and every segment of the military has upped their advertising and are fighting to keep recruiters on college campuses. So why on earth would the military even consider turning away a heroic Army Sergeant who has courageously served his country in war?

Because he’s gay.

Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, says he has not encountered trouble from fellow soldiers and would like to stay if not for the policy that permits gay men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.

"I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open," Stout said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it's just not worth it."

Stout, of Utica, Ohio, was awarded the Purple Heart after a grenade sent pieces of shrapnel into his arm, face and legs while he was operating a machine gun on an armored Humvee last May.
Quite a soldier. Brave on the battlefield; just as brave off the battlefield. And he couldn’t have chosen a better time to address this particular issue. Support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military has been steadily increasing, and while enlistments are decreasing, it’s getting ever more difficult to justify a policy that turns away good soldiers for no good reason.

"We can't keep hiding the fact that there's gay people in the military and they aren't causing any harm," said Stout, who says he is openly gay among most of his 26-member platoon, which is part of the 9th Engineer Battalion based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Stout, who served in Iraq for more than a year as a combat engineer, said by acknowledging he is gay, he could be jailed and probably will be discharged before his scheduled release date of May 31.

"The old armchair thought that gay people destroy unit camaraderie and cohesion is just wrong," Stout said. "They said the same things when they tried to integrate African-Americans and women into the military."

Before the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, enacted in 1993 under the Clinton administration, the Pentagon had explicitly barred gays from military service. At least 24 countries, including Great Britain, Germany, France, Australia, Canada and Israel, allow gays to serve openly.


"The 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, when it first came out, was a good stepping stone, but it's outlived its usefulness," [Stout] said. "We've progressed past it both as a military and as a society."
Right on. This guy is seriously my new hero.

We really ought to be ashamed of ourselves at how far behind the curve we are on this one. At least twenty-four other countries allow gays to serve openly, but we’re ready to kick a hero out of the service because he wants to be able to be honest about his sexuality? Ridiculous. Bigoted. Foolish.

And costly:

A recent congressional study on the impact of "don't ask, don't tell" said that hundreds of highly skilled troops, including many translators, have left the armed forces because of the rule, at a cost of nearly $200 million, mostly for recruiting and training replacements for 9,500 troops discharged between 1994 and 2003.
The cost of homophobia: $200 million. The cost of tolerance: free.

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