You want guys like me - but not gays?

March 28, 2007|By GREGORY KANE

Open letter to Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Dear General Pace:

Tomorrow marks the 33rd anniversary of my enlistment in the Air Force. That fact probably doesn't mean diddly to you, but in light of the heat you've been taking lately concerning your remarks about gays and lesbians in our armed forces, I thought you might like to hear from a veteran.

And not just any veteran, mind you. I'm a member of that group of vets who might be called the "Bottom of the Barrel Crew," meaning that our armed forces really scraped the bottom of the barrel when they let us join. I wish I could tell you that I was the quintessential disciplined, well-groomed, spit-and-polish airman with exemplary military bearing. But heck, why lie?

The fact is that I left the Air Force because of unresolved disciplinary issues. My DD Form 214 technically reads that I received an honorable discharge, but the truth is my departure from the Air Force was less than an honorable discharge but not quite a parole.

You might see where I'm going with this, General Pace. Our armed forces need good people, and many of them are gays and lesbians.

Let me review the remarks that have you taking so much heat. A couple of weeks ago you told the Chicago Tribune that "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts." You've been hammered by many for what they call your "bigoted" comments. But your bigotry - or lack of it - is not the purpose of my letter. The word bigot gets tossed around so much these days, especially by those on the left, that the term has lost all meaning except the one given to us by Ambrose Bierce: "One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain." (That definition comes from Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary. He was a satirist and a Civil War veteran who could also have been in the "Bottom of the Barrel Crew," and he'd have been darned proud of it.)

Whether you or those Americans who believe as you do are truly bigots for believing that homosexual acts are immoral and that gays and lesbians have no place in our armed forces is a matter that will be debated for years. It will be debated as much as the wars, mini-wars, police actions, interventions and conflicts that occurred as a result of a trait Americans developed late in the 19th century: butting into the affairs of countries smaller and weaker than our own.

We need an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to indulge our penchant for poking our noses where they don't belong. For some reason, we think we can do that with armed forces solely composed of volunteers. We have troops in Afghanistan. Some of our servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq are there for second, third and fourth tours of duty. And President Bush has implemented a "stop-loss" policy whereby our armed forces refuse to discharge servicemen and servicewomen who have completed their terms of enlistment.

So let me get this straight: You want to keep soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have completed their military obligations and want to get out but have a problem with letting gays and lesbians in? What's wrong with this picture, General Pace?

The guys and gals in the "Bottom of the Barrel Crew" can immediately see what's wrong with it. One of the fundamental beliefs of the "Bottom of the Barrel Crew" is that if the armed forces took us, they should take anybody. The fact that we were allowed to enlist proves our armed forces have no cut card when it comes to letting people in.

If gays and lesbians are willing and eager to serve in Iraq - subjecting themselves to multiple tours of duty and to that draconian "stop-loss" policy - those of us in the "Bottom of the Barrel Crew" say by all means let them. I imagine there were gays and lesbians who loyally served our country in other notable misadventures, such as the 1899-1902 war in the Philippines, the occupations of Haiti and Nicaragua, and the interventions in the Dominican Republic and Grenada.

OK, scratch Grenada. I've been there and some Grenadians told me that President Ronald Reagan - the lovable cowboy - got it right on that one. American troops intervened only after Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and others were lined up against a wall and machine-gunned to death. Then Bishop's Marxist rivals slapped a dawn-to-dusk curfew on the island.

But my point is that gays and lesbians who shared Reagan's view of America and who were eager to deliver Grenada from the clutches of Marxist thugs in 1983 should have been allowed to do so.

Some members of the "Bottom of the Barrel Crew" might not have been as willing.

greg.kane@baltsun.com

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